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Feds Fund Research Centers to Protect Power Grid From Cyberattacks

by Devin Coldewey /

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The Department of Energy is dedicating over $34 million to the establishment of two major research endeavors aimed at protecting the nation's power grid against hackers and other cyber threats.

Related: OPM Hack: Government Finally Starts Notifying 21.5 Million Victims

"Cybersecurity is one of the most serious challenges facing grid modernization, which is why maintaining a robust, ever-growing pipeline of cutting-edge technologies is essential to helping the energy sector continue adapting to the evolving landscape," the DOE's Patricia Hoffman said in a press release.

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Some $12.2 million will go to a research center led by the University of Arkansas, while another $22.5 million will be shared among the members of the University of Illinois Cyber Resilient Energy Delivery Consortium. Both will look into ways of protecting power grid elements — from the hardware that runs transformers to the software that power companies use — from cyberattacks.

Related: Energy Department to Spend $200 Million on New 'Aurora' Supercomputer

"The impact of this work is tremendous," said Alan Mantooth, leader of the University of Arkansas effort, in a news release. "All too frequently we are hearing of how foreign entities are hacking into U.S. computer systems. This center’s mission is directly focused on protecting America’s electric energy delivery system, and we are pleased to have a great team with which to approach these challenges."

A report released in July calculated that a cyberattack that shuts down parts of the nation's power grid could cost as much as $1 trillion to the U.S. economy.

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