Up to $70 million in federal funding will be allocated to support the development of technologies aimed at enhancing the resilience of the energy delivery infrastructure against various threats, including those posed by cybercriminals.
The All-Hazards Energy Resilience program, initiated by the U.S. Department of Energy this month, is actively seeking proposals from a diverse array of entities. This includes public and private organizations, universities, nonprofit and for-profit companies, state, local, and tribal governments, as well as the Department of Energy’s national laboratories.
According to Security Boulevard, the All-Hazards Energy Resilience program will not only include programs aimed at cybersecurity, but also climate change research, physical security, wildfire mitigation, and university-based R&D. The last category emphasized research that comes from historically black universities and colleges.
Proposals must be submitted by March 4, with awards expected to be announced in September.
The new DOE program is part of a larger directive by the Biden Administration to protect the country’s critical infrastructure, which includes not only energy but more than a dozen other sectors, including chemicals, healthcare, transportation, financial services, IT, and food and agriculture.
Water and wastewater systems also are on the list and were put on center stage in November when the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned that cyberthreat groups were trying to exploit programmable logic controllers (PLCs) – used to monitor water treatment processes, such as turning pumps on and off that fill tanks and reservoirs – to threaten the integrity of municipal water operations.
The advisory was issued after the municipal water system in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, was compromised when bad actors took control of it by exploiting PLCs created by Unitronics. The PLCs were used to monitor water pressure for nearby towns and while local officials said there was no threat to drinking water, operators had to take the system offline and shift to manual operations.