The US Department of Energy (DOE) will offer a total of $12 million to fund six different university teams that are researching and developing cybersecurity tools.
Their main focus is the prevention and mitigation of attacks on US energy delivery systems.
Cyberattacks from state actors have been making headlines lately, and this announcement looks like one way the US government is responding.
What does $12 Million buy?
The funds will come from DOE's Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER), and go towards a range of different projects from the six teams.
Here's a quick look at how the funding is being split up:
- Florida International University (Award Amount: $2,000,000)
- Iowa State University (Award Amount: $2,000,000)
- New York University (Award Amount: $1,939,416)
- Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (Award Amount: $1,997,921)
- University of Illinois at Chicago (Award Amount: $2,000,000)
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Award Amount: $1,997,864)
The announcement specifically notes advance anomaly detection as a main focus, along with AI, machine learning, and analysis aimed at building more secure next-gen energy systems.
Once built, the new systems will be able to auto-block access to key control functions and detect cyber attacks more rapidly.
In addition to curbing cyber threats from other countries, the new tools being developed can help to smooth the transition to cleaner forms of energy — President Biden has set goals to reach a 100% clean electrical grid by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
“Investing in cutting-edge cyber security technology keeps us at the forefront of global innovation and protects America’s power grid in the face of increasing cyber threats from abroad,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm in the announcement. “This funding will bolster our commitment to a secure and resilient clean energy future by fortifying American electricity systems and building a stronger grid.”
25% of all ransomware attacks around the globe were directed at the US, according to one analysis from cybersecurity firm BitDefender that looked at November 2021 attacks.
Last month, the FBI warned about Russian hackers, stating that they were scanning U.S. energy systems and posed a threat.
$12 million isn't much in the grand scheme of things, but keeping infrastructure up to date is essential for keeping the country chugging along, so this is a welcome development.
For those of us who aren't spearheading a team of AI researchers, though, cybersecurity is a lot more simple: Get the right antivirus software, learn the signs of a phishing attack, keep your passwords straight, and don't download strange files to your work laptop.