The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) $3.6 million to research and develop a virtual, cloud-based cybersecurity management tools for small, resource-constrained utilities, NRECA announced today. NRECA and Honeywell Corporation will provide matching funds for a total of $4.7 million.
NRECA will collaborate with Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, Carnegie Mellon University, Honeywell Corporation and Cigital Inc., to create and demonstrate an automated network configuration and management device that will enable small utilities to monitor, analyze and securely manage their systems.
“We are proud to be working with such a prestigious team on a product that will meet a critical need among rural cooperatives,” said NRECA CEO Jo Ann Emerson. “This project shows, again, that challenges specific to cooperatives lead to innovations that can help the entire industry.”
“This innovation will help small utilities by making security management simpler, less costly and more reliable than traditional firewalls,” predicted Craig Miller, chief scientist at NRECA. “By combining high-level functionality with an easy-to-use platform, the system will simplify cybersecurity management for small utilities with more limited IT resources, and supplementing the security of larger utilities.”
Goals of the project, entitled “Energy Sector Security through a System for Intelligent, Learning Network Configuration Management and Monitoring,” include the following:
- Improved implementation of cybersecurity policies
- Improved detection and prevention of malicious code
- Greater adaptability of security systems to changing threats
This grant builds on previous NRECA’s previous cybersecurity research. In 2011 NRECA released a Guide to Developing a Cybersecurity and Risk Mitigation Plan. Using the guide and template, based on standards and best practices compiled by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, small cooperatives anywhere in the country can identify risks and develop a continuous process improvement plan to bolster their security.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.