US Dept of Energy lobs out $34m for bright ideas on securing grids

GE and Intel among big winners in security spend spree

Steam power turbine

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $34m in funding to pay for 12 programs aimed at improving the security of the US power grid.

The DOE said that the projects (pending approval from Congress) would be given out to both university researchers and commercial companies and would look to cover basic issues related to detecting and stopping cyber attacks on the energy systems.

Winners of the cash earmarks include General Electric, Iowa State University, Intel, and Texas A&M University.

"The twelve projects will enhance the reliability and resilience of the nation's energy critical infrastructure through innovative, scalable, and cost-effective research, development and demonstration of cybersecurity solutions," the DOE said [PDF].

"These technologies are expected to have broad applicability to the US energy delivery sector by meeting the needs of the energy sector in a cost-effective manner with a clear path for acceptance by asset owners and operators and through commercialization by solution providers."

The projects will include:

  • Development of systems to differentiate potential attacks from everyday management activities in power systems.
  • Creation of secure connections for communication between devices.
  • Use of machine-learning technologies to spot and respond to attacks.

For General Electric, the money will be used to develop an "anomaly detection and accommodation" system for power plants. The automated system would be able to recognize when an attack on the plant was occurring and could take measures to counter the attack or re-route activity to keep the plant running.

Intel, meanwhile, hopes to use its cut of the $34m to develop an architecture that will allow multiple devices and locations to share information over secure connections and channels.

"Intel will demonstrate that the cyber-attack surface of energy delivery control systems can be continuously and autonomously reduced in a way that does not impede normal critical energy delivery functions," the DOE says.

The DOE has not said when the funds will be paid out or when the projects are slated to be completed. ®

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