Lehigh University Selected for Federal Cybersecurity Venture

The project looks to make systems less susceptible to attacks and provide backup power in case of an attack.

by Anthony Salamone, The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) / October 15, 2015 0

(TNS) -- Lehigh University researchers will participate in a project designed to protect the nation's power grid from cyberattacks.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced this week a $12.2 million grant will enable researchers from Lehigh and four other colleges to address vulnerabilities and challenges in delivery systems of the U.S. power grid. The goal includes making systems less susceptible to attacks and providing reliable delivery of power in case of an attack.

Lehigh faculty members have been involved in research that aims to protect the grid against various threats, said Larry Snyder, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering at Lehigh. Hazards include everything from power outages that have a cascading effect on electric reliability to danger from "external actors," such as terrorists, Snyder said.

In the future, the power system will be more vulnerable to external forces — hackers and criminals intent on infiltrating the infrastructure — than natural disasters that lead to outages, Snyder said.

"We need to be prepared," he said.

Other Lehigh faculty on the project are Rick S. Blum, Liang Cheng, Mooi Choo Chuah, Boris Defourny, Shalinee Kishore, Alberto Lamadrid, Wenxin Liu and Parv Venkitasubramaniam.

Faculty at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville will lead the research, the DOE said. Testing will take place at Arkansas' National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transmission and at the other schools' test facilities, with additional trials to be conducted by Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. The electricity industry is expected to deploy the technology.

In a news release, Patricia Hoffman, assistant secretary for DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, said cybersecurity is one of the most serious challenges facing grid modernization, and it's necessary to maintain a "pipeline of cutting-edge technologies."

The $12.2 million DOE grant is augmented by $3.3 million in matching funds from Lehigh and the other research partners, according to the department's news release. Besides Lehigh and Arkansas-Fayetteville, the research team includes faculty from the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, Florida International University and Carnegie Mellon University.

The department also announced a $22.5 million grant to develop technologies to help the nation's oil and natural gas infrastructure ward off similar cyberthreats.

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