Photo at Oak Ridge National Lab take, 18 Nov 2019. From left: James Taylor (National Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska), Michael Hempel (University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Engineering), Kalyan Perumalla (Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory), Juan Lopez (Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory), Joshua Mauk (Omaha Public Power District)
Together with researchers Michael Hempel and Hamid Sharif from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) College of Engineering, researchers Kalyan Perumalla and Juan Lopez at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Joshua Mauk with Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), James Taylor of the National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) at the University of Nebraska will conduct research to improve cybersecurity in the energy sector.
The collaborative team won a $3 million competitive research grant from the Department of Energy for a three-year project, entitled: "A Cyber-Physical Security Assurance Framework based on a Semi-Supervised Vetting Approach" (CYVET).
The project will develop and demonstrate a cybersecurity framework testing capability to verify and validate operational technology (OT) equipment, software and the underlying control system architecture for weaknesses in cybersecurity features as compared to the capabilities claimed by the manufacturer.
Through this framework, energy sector operators will have an automated way of vetting their cybersecurity requirements for critical OT systems against the actual performance in the test environment.
"We are excited about the opportunity to expand our cybersecurity collaborations with these colleagues, especially through a project that will deliver a game-changing shift in OT cybersecurity," said Taylor, NSRI Director of STRATCOM Mission Systems. "This work will pay off in enhanced security across our critical infrastructure systems in both the Department of Defense and private sector."
ORNL and UNL researchers will jointly develop the CYVET cybersecurity software testing methodology. Once completed, the research team will demonstrate its effectiveness using testbeds configured to reflect operationally-relevant scenarios and containing equipment recommended by industry partner OPPD.
Throughout the project, NSRI will provide cybersecurity expertise and identify technology transition opportunities to a variety of domains and potential critical infrastructure operators throughout the Department of Defense.
Hempel and Sharif expect the capabilities enabled through CYVET to increase the Advanced Telecommunications Engineering Lab’s (TEL) cybersecurity research portfolio and its ability to train and educate the next generation of engineers and scientists. They also aim to foster awareness and competency in the cybersecurity arena for the energy sector and beyond.
“CYVET will lead to a new paradigm for system designers who can conduct evaluations of cybersecurity claims from vendors before they are incorporated into a design,” Sharif said. “The resulting cybersecurity rating system, similar to the ‘Energy Star’ energy efficiency rating system, could add to UNL’s reputation as a leader in cybersecurity research for OT systems.”
About the National Strategic Research Institute
Founded in 2012, the National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) at the University of Nebraska is the only University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) in the country dedicated to delivering solutions for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) to U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) and across other federal agencies. NSRI provides research and development for the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and other governmental agencies in multiple mission-critical competency areas — including development of medical countermeasures to WMD; nuclear detection and forensics; consequence management; chemical and biological weapons detection; and space, cyber, and telecom law. Learn more at nsri.nebraska.edu.