NSF Awards Grant to Study Energy Grid Security Hardware

Professor Hui Lin, along with a partner from the University of Arkansas, has been awarded a three-year, $280,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Lin’s work has been focused on ways to defend the nation’s power grids from cyber-attacks. The idea came from the 2014 cyber-attack that shut down a Ukrainian power plant. “We’re researching whether we can use a more advanced hardware infrastructure that has shown success in the general computing environment within a new setup,” Lin said.

“Software usually runs slowly, but this type of special hardware can run in network related activities really quickly, much quicker than the CPU’s that are running on general purpose computers. It seems that the NSF found this interesting, so we were lucky to get a grant for that type of research.”

Lin and his colleagues began work on the project in May 2022 and spent the summer doing some elementary studies to determine whether their ideas might work. “Along the way we did lots of brainstorming and narrowed down our ideas,” Lin said. The proposal was submitted in September.

“This project has some challenges that come with it because the special hardware is not something that we deal with every day. There’s a learning curve for all of us. There are also some restrictions: this is special hardware that is designed for special functionality. We want to use that, but bring it into more general purposes, like network monitoring and network analysis. We had to use some trial and error to figure out how to make it work.”