Auburn University, Oak Ridge National Lab to create pilot SE Regional Cybersecurity Collaboration Center – Daily Energy Insider

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Published on April 30, 2024 by Chris Galford

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Thanks to a $10 million grant award from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Auburn University’s McCrary Institute for Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Security based in Alabama, and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee plan to form a pilot regional cybersecurity center to research ways of better protecting the power grid.

Known as the Southeast Region Cybersecurity Collaboration Center (SERC3), this cybersecurity center will focus on research and operations related to cyberattacks. Valued at $12.5 million – thanks to an additional $2.5 million from Auburn University and other partners – the initiative will represent the first regional cybersecurity center dedicated to grid protection, and to this end will unite private, academic and governmental experts for training and investigation. 

“Auburn University is proud to be at the forefront of this important field as we work against one of the greatest threats the country and the business sector will face in the future,” Steve Taylor, Auburn University’s senior vice president for research and economic development, said. “The center will conduct critical research and provide real operational solutions to protect all of us as we address these challenges. We are thankful to Oak Ridge National Laboratory for partnering with us and Rep. Mike Rogers for his support in securing funding for this critical program.” 

According to Frank Cilluffo, director of the McCrary Institute, the project will work to research and rapidly identify, share and mitigate cybersecurity risks while training a future workforce of cyber defenders. To this end, the facility will include a mock utility command center for real-time training, complete with labs at Auburn University and at the Oak Ridge National Lab.

“We are excited to work with Auburn on this important national mission,” Stephen Streiffer, director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said. “We’re combining our capabilities to partner with industry, develop new security technologies and transfer those technologies to industry, all while developing the workforce that will operate these enhanced systems.”

Experiments will be conducted with industry partners in a lab environment, where they will test out integrations of new and existing security software and hardware in operational environments. Students will be offered hands-on experiences that emphasizes critical infrastructure, and the research could ultimately benefit utilities nationwide. 

“We know that adversaries want the ability to disrupt our energy infrastructure, which could be devastating for our communities,” said Moe Khaleel, associate laboratory director for National Security Sciences at ORNL. “SERC3 will focus on establishing regional partnerships and developing science-based solutions to mitigate these threats – and keep everyone’s lights on.”

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