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New center at Illinois will
examine how to safeguard nation's power grid
E. Kloeppel, Physical Sciences Editor
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. —
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will be the home of a
national center that will address the challenge of how to protect the
nation’s power grid, the National Science Foundation announced
today. The NSF has awarded $7.5 million over five years to the project,
which will be led by the U. of I. and also involve researchers at Cornell
University, Dartmouth College, and Washington State University. The
Department of Energy and the Department of Homeland Security have pledged
to join NSF in funding and managing the effort.
The center, called Trustworthy Cyber Infrastructure for the Power Grid
(TCIP), will significantly improve the way the power grid cyber infrastructure
is built, making it more secure, reliable and safe.
The award was one of 36 announced today, totaling $36 million, through
the NSF’s 2005 Cyber Trust program. Cyber Trust, the focus of
the science foundation’s cyber-security efforts, was designed
to create a system that guarantees the reliability of computers and
networks underlying the nation’s infrastructures, even in the
face of cyber attacks.
The awards come at a time of increased public and government concern
over the vulnerability of the nation’s power grid. The Aug. 14,
2003, blackout that affected an estimated 50 million customers in the
Northeast and Canada demonstrated the fragility of the grid and raised
concerns about the ease with which terrorists might take advantage of
“Our quality of life is dependent on the continuous functioning
of our nation’s electric power infrastructure, and its functioning
is at serious risk from both malicious cyber attacks and accidental
failures,” said Bill Sanders, a professor of electrical
and computer engineering at Illinois who is the director of the
“Studies suggest that the risk of cyber attacks is significant,
and such attacks could have severe consequences,” Sanders said.
Nineteen faculty members and senior researchers will be involved with
work at the TCIP center, which will be part of the university’s Information Trust Institute. The
institute includes researchers from aerospace
engineering, computer science,
the Coordinated Science Laboratory,
electrical and computer engineering, general
engineering, the National Center
for Supercomputing Applications and the College
of Law. The institute provides national leadership in conducting
research to create trustworthy and secure information systems.
Researchers will study techniques for developing control and sensor
elements to form the foundation of the next-generation cyber infrastructure
for the power grid. Work also will focus on trust management, data integrity
and emergency response, Sanders said. Security validation techniques
will be developed to predict the trustworthiness of proposed solutions.
Researchers will work with a 14-member industrial advisory board from
power-system-operating companies and equipment providers to make certain
that the universities’ efforts address real-world problems, according
to Pete Sauer, professor and TCIP Industry Coordinator. Among the companies
are Ameren, Cisco Systems, Exelon, Honeywell, Open Systems International,
PJM Interconnection, PowerWorld, Siemens and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Students will be involved in much of the research, including the use
of an interactive simulator that will allow multiple users to experiment
with new power grid cyber-infrastructure design issues. Additional education
and outreach work will draw students from diverse backgrounds ranging
from the middle school to college levels.
The NSF also is awarding about $1.5 million annually for five years
for a center at Johns Hopkins University focusing on the design and
technology for trustworthy voting systems.
“These two centers represent opportunities to find solutions for
urgent national problems,” said Carl Landwehr, the NSF coordinator
for the Cyber Trust program.
note: To reach Bill Sanders, call 217-390-1311; e-mail: email@example.com.