$6 million boost for US-Israel cybersecurity collaboration

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With cyber attacks on the increase, Israel’s Ben-Gurion University and Arizona State University are leading a consortium to develop new solutions.

The award of up to $6 million under a US-Israel Energy Center research grant will develop artificial intelligence and machine learning-based centralised defence and edge resilience solutions.

With additional cost sharing the investment in the project could double to $12 million over three years.

Other project partners in the US include Duquesne Light Company and Arizona Public Service as the utility representatives, Nexant and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories as vendors and Georgia Tech Research Corporation.

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Israeli partners include the solar energy company Arava Power and Rad Data Communications.

“The consortium brings these great partners together and allocates resources to develop new technology and insights vital to the US and Israel,” says Dan Blumberg, professor in remote sensing at Ben-Gurion University and director of the University’s Homeland Security Institute.

Pipeline cyber attack

The energy infrastructure is coming under increasing attacks in the US and Israel among other countries. Among the latest is a reported ransomware attack on US pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline, which resulted in the shutdown of almost 9,000km of pipeline between Texas and New York carrying petrol, diesel and jet fuel amounting to close to half of the East Coast’s fuel supplies.

The latest intelligence is that rather than a nation looking to disrupt the infrastructure, this was the work of a relatively new criminal group named DarkSide with origins believed to be in Eastern Europe, with the intention to extort money.

Whether or not the ransom has been paid has not been stated but it highlights the dilemma facing energy and other companies when they do come under such attack with the need to get their business operational again.

The award of the grant comes during the US Department of Energy’s 100-day plan to promote and advance cybersecurity in the sector. The initiative also includes a request for information to inform future recommendations for supply chain security in the US energy systems.

The US-Israel Energy Center was formed in 2016 to promote energy security and economic development through R&D of innovative energy technologies, while facilitating cooperation between US and Israeli companies, research institutes and universities. The Center is managed by the Bird Foundation.