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>  News Releases >   2009 >   April

Workshop to highlight cyber security needs in the energy sector

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release • Posted 04/16/09 •
Media Contacts: Susan Knapp (603) 646-3661 or Laurie Burnham (603) 646-0686

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April 28 event in Houston hosted by Dartmouth's I3P

Computerized control systems drive the industrial operations that form our nation’s economic backbone, safely and efficiently running such processes as electric generation and the extraction, refining and flow of petroleum and natural gas products. Yet mounting evidence suggests these systems are vulnerable to cyber attacks, which—if successful—could disrupt the nation’s energy supply and possibly unleash an environmental disaster.

Recognizing the need to raise awareness among those who operate these systems, Dartmouth’s Institute for Information Infrastructure Protection (I3P) will host a workshop on April 28 in Houston to address critical security issues in the energy sector.

A team of experts from eight I3P member institutions will lead sessions on process control system security for end users, highlighting vulnerabilities as well as new tools the I3P is researching, designing and commercializing. “The need for tools in this area is great,” says Charles C. Palmer, research director for the I3P. “Process control systems typically rely on a dispersed network of sensors and other smart devices, and thus are vulnerable to sabotage on many fronts.”

A key player in the field of cyber security research and development, the I3P believes that reaching out to industry is strategically important. “Technologies developed to protect our critical infrastructures will not have an impact until they are deployed by those who run the systems that are at the heart of those infrastructures,” says project leader Robert K. Cunningham of MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

Martin Wybourne, principal investigator for the I3P and vice provost for research at Dartmouth, acknowledges the value of collaboration. “An important component for the success of a program such as the one presented at this workshop, is a close collaboration between academia, industry and government,” says Wybourne. “The I3P program on process control systems under the direction of Dr. Cunningham has done an exceptional job of working with all three groups to address some of the pressing cyber security challenges related to the energy sector and to translate solutions from the laboratory to the field.”

This year’s workshop, the fifth one hosted by the I3P for the energy sector, also serves as the kickoff event to the 81st annual Energy, Telecommunications and Electricity Association (ENTELEC) conference. Greg Vaughn, president of ENTELEC, will deliver a speech emphasizing the importance of research and development to industry. “With cyber security the topic of a significant portion of the technical papers presented at the ENTELEC Conference, we are pleased attendees have the opportunity to attend both conferences,” says Vaughn. “Scheduling these events side-by-side enables ENTELEC to help the I3P’s research and development efforts meet real world applications and in turn helps the I3P significantly boost awareness in our industry sector.”

David Batz of Alliant Energy will deliver the keynote address, describing how catastrophic flooding in 2008 disrupted operations at a major utility and the implications of that event for cyber security.

The I3P is a national consortium of leading universities, national laboratories and non-profit institutions dedicated to strengthening the cyber infrastructure of the United States. Founded in 2002, with funding from the Department of Homeland Security and the National Institute of Standards, the I3P is managed by Dartmouth College.

Written by Laurie Burnham, I3P

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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