UI gets $18.7M federal grant to study electric grid vulnerabilities

UI gets $18.7M federal grant to study electric grid vulnerabilities

URBANA — The University of Illinois has been awarded an $18.7 million federal grant designed to speed up the country's response to and recovery from attacks on the electric grid.

The grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will allow researchers to create a framework that mimics the conditions of the real electric grid, to develop and test new technology and cybersecurity tools.

Researchers will be able to take a "generational step forward" in ensuring that tools being built to deal with such an attack are reliable, said Tim Yardley, principal investigator and associate director for technology at the Information Trust Institute.

Researchers will run models of the grid operating under normal conditions and under attack, examining both physical and cyber dimensions — hardware, software, data and networks. Most current approaches "look at the problem from a single axis, missing crucial information that can help determine the root cause," Yardley said.

Based on the results, utilities will be able to evaluate their security protections and design more resilient systems, he said.

Illinois electrical and computer engineering Professors David Nicol and Tom Overbye are co-investigators on the project. Industry partners include SimSpace, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratory, Dragos Security, ABB Group and a utility.