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Effort on to Protect Nation's Power Grid

Aug 17, 2005 Jim Paul euractive.com

URBANA, Ill. (AP) - Researchers armed with $7.5 million from the federal government are setting out to develop a computer network that can improve the reliability of the nation's vulnerable power grid and make it secure from attack.

The project follows the largest blackout in U.S. history, which left millions of people in the Northeast and southern Canada without power in August 2003.

"Although the blackout was accidental, it showed that current controls and computer software are inadequate," said William H. Sanders, director of the university's Information Trust Institute. "Today, people are trying to patch it. But those patches will not get us to where we need to be."

Researchers from the University of Illinois, Cornell University, Dartmouth College and Washington State University will join with electricity companies to focus over the next five years on developing controls and sensors for the network, protocol for sharing information and technology for keeping the information trustworthy and secure.

is a significant national problem," said Carl Landwehr, director of the National Science Foundation's Cyber Trust program, which provided the grant.

"I believe the solutions that will be addressed will apply not only to the power grid but to the entire problem of implementing secure computer systems," Landwehr said Wednesday.

The Aug. 14, 2003, blackout was blamed on a tree that shorted out a power line in Ohio and began a cascade of failure in a distribution system that had been assembled piece by piece over decades. After the blackout, President Bush called the system "antiquated."

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