BGU and ASU Consortium Awarded Prestigious Energy Cyber Center Grant

Photo: A covered walkway connects the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Marcus Campus in Beer-Sheva with the train station and the Advanced Technology Park. Credit Dani Machlis/BGU

A winning consortium led by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) – the Israeli leader, and Arizona State University (ASU) – the U.S. leader, along with several other tech partners, including Georgia Tech Research Corporation, will receive up to $6 million under a U.S.-Israel Energy Center research funding grant for energy infrastructure cybersecurity.

Orchestrating the proposal for the grant is BGU Prof. Dan Blumberg, an alumnus of both BGU and ASU. Prof. Blumberg is the Simon Family Chair in Remote Sensing, vice president for industrial and regional development as well as director of the University’s Homeland Security Institute. BGU has collaborated with ASU on environmental research in the past, and Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, was the one that initially suggested collaborating with BGU on the submission of the winning proposal

The consortium’s research project is entitled: Comprehensive Cybersecurity Technology for Critical Power Infrastructure AI Based Centralized Defense and Edge Resilience.” Increasingly, both Israel and the U.S. face costly cyberattacks that can cause severe damage to critical energy infrastructure. This consortium will develop, integrate, and test technologies, and demonstrate high-value cyberattack mitigation technologies on the energy infrastructure using data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Prof. Dan Blumberg
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“It’s clear that almost everything is susceptible to cyberattacks now, which doesn’t mean the attacker will be sitting next to the place that he’s attacking – he doesn’t even need to be exposed as the attacker,” says Prof. Blumberg. “Cyber mechanisms can attack anywhere in the world, and critical infrastructure is a key cog for anyone who wants to terrorize, therefore developing the tools for perfecting critical infrastructure, and specifically energy infrastructure is key to maintaining quality of life.”

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Israel’s Ministry of Energy and the Israel Innovation Authority, the total value of the investment with cost-sharing could reach up to $12M over three years. The Energy Center is managed by the BIRD Foundation (Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation).

“There are a lot of researchers on this in both places (Israel and Arizona),” says Prof. Blumberg. “I want to give credit to everyone involved who did a lot of work putting this proposal together on both sides of the ocean.”

The BGU research team includes; Prof. Yuval Elovici, Dr. Yisroel Mirsky, Dr. Nir Nissim, Prof. Lior Rokach, Prof. Asaf Shabtai, Prof. Bracha Shapira, and Dr. David Tolpin. The leader from BGU and Business Manager is Dr. Rami Puzis; from ASU, it’s Mr. Yang Weng.

“We are so proud of Prof. Dan Blumberg and Prof. Yuval Elovici, who have worked tirelessly to transform BGU and Beer-Sheva into the center of Israel’s cyber ecosystem,” says Doug Seserman, chief executive officer of Americans for Ben-Gurion University. “We congratulate them along with the winning BGU research team and partners who will leverage their remarkable cyber and artificial intelligence capabilities to secure critical energy infrastructure of both countries with the generous support from the BIRD Foundation.”

The Advanced Technologies Park at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and CyberSpark – The Israeli Cyber Innovation Arena has put Beer-Sheva on the map to be a hub for cybersecurity worldwide.

According to Dr. Andrew Light, assistant secretary for International Affairs (Acting) at the U.S. Department of Energy, “Cybersecurity for energy infrastructure is key to the success of our efforts to deploy new innovative technologies to combat the climate crisis, promote energy justice, and create new clean energy jobs. I am pleased that this international consortium between the U.S. and our friends in Israel will develop new tools to address the cybersecurity threats we will face as we invest in our people, our supply chains, and our capacity to meet our clean energy goals.”

“The continuing collaboration in the energy sector between the U.S. and Israel has engendered considerable interest and has the potential to bring about significant technological progress,” said Udi Adiri, director general at the Israel Ministry of Energy. “The Ministry of Energy is strongly involved in protecting the water and energy sector from cyber-attacks and believes that R&D investment is just as important.”

The importance of energy infrastructure cybersecurity became a national headline in light of the event on May 7, when Colonial Pipeline, an American oil pipeline system that originates in Houston, Texas, and carries gasoline and jet fuel mainly to the Southeastern United States, suffered a ransomware cyberattack that impacted computerized equipment managing the pipeline.

“If it (the work of the consortium) doesn’t benefit both countries, then we’ve failed,” says Prof. Blumberg. “This work should benefit the whole world.”

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