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US Department of Energy awards USD 30M for cyber-attack protection

ViaSat receives USD 3.25M to enhance its critical infrastructure protection system

The US Department of Energy (DoE) has granted 11 awards valued at around USD 30 million for the development of new tools and technologies to strengthen protection of the nation’s electric grid and oil and gas infrastructure from cyber attack, including an award of USD 3.25 million to ViaSat.

The company will work closely with Southern California Edison and a large utility headquartered in the south to investigate, develop and deploy an enhancement to ViaSat’s critical infrastructure protection system that incorporates policy-based automated responses to cyber events, increasing the resiliency of transmission and distribution networks.

ViaSat’s cybersecurity system focuses on securing utilities’ operational grids, enabling energy, water, oil and gas and transportation operations crews to manage security through a virtual display of the network. The system implements an authenticated and encrypted “security fabric” that protects machine-to-machine communications between devices, and provides grid operators with the ability to visualise the security state of the system. Sensors continually update the information in real time, creating a hierarchical view that operators can use to identify issues, then drill down to individual nodes to contain or fix problems as they arise.

Traditional IT approaches have not adequately addressed the real-time control systems in the operational grid.

All DoE cybersecurity efforts align with the “Roadmap to Achieve Energy Delivery Systems Cybersecurity,” jointly developed with energy sector companies. The Roadmap outlines a strategic framework over the next decade to design, install, operate and maintain a resilient energy delivery system capable of surviving a cyber incident while sustaining critical functions.

ViaSat is teaming with both Southern California Edison and another major utility to provide an easy transition from the lab to test and rollout into operational networks.

“Our approach is to use our government information assurance expertise to develop systems that can help keep the nation’s energy flowing,” said Jerry Goodwin, Vice-President and General Manager of Secure Network Systems at ViaSat.

“We look forward to working with our customers on this and future developments as the DoE implements its 10-year cybersecurity plan.”

Jeff Gooding, Principal Manager of Smart Grid System Engineering at Southern California Edison (SCE), adds: “We’ve been working with ViaSat very closely to develop our cybersecurity capabilities at SCE and this DoE grant validates our approach. The advanced response capabilities will be a big step forward towards enabling us to improve our response time to incidents.”