Cyber-security project aims to protect US grid

  • April 22, 2024
  • Steve Rogerson

Auburn University’s McCrary Institute and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are working together on a regional cyber-security centre to protect the USA’s electricity grid.

The US Department of Energy has awarded a $10m grant to the partners to help them develop innovations to mitigate cyber threats across the country.

The goal is to create a pilot regional cyber-security research and operations centre to protect the electric power grid against cyber attacks.

The total value of the project is $12.5m, with the additional $2.5m coming from Auburn University and other partners.

The centre, officially named the Southeast Region Cybersecurity Collaboration Center (Serc 3), will bring together experts from the private sector, academia and government to share information and generate real-world innovations to protect the nation’s power grid and other key sectors. It will include a mock utility command centre to train participants in real-time cyber defence.

“Auburn University is proud to be at the forefront of this important field as we work against one of the greatest threats the country and the business sector will face in the future,” said Steve Taylor, Auburn University senior vice president. “The centre will conduct critical research and provide real operational options to protect all of us as we address these challenges.”

The centre will run experiments with industry partners in a research lab environment to support integration of new and existing security software and hardware into operational environments. Research labs will be established at Auburn University, housed at the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, and at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

“We are excited to work with Auburn on this important national mission,” said Oak Ridge National Laboratory director Stephen Streiffer. “We’re combining our capabilities to partner with industry, develop new security technologies and transfer those technologies to industry, all while developing the workforce that will operate these enhanced systems.”

Workforce and skills development will be a core role of Auburn’s in this partnership.

“This project provides an exciting opportunity for our college and our students,” said Mario Eden, dean of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering ( “Our students will get hands-on experience in a real-world environment. We have a proven track record of innovation and this project perfectly aligns with our mission to provide the best student-centred engineering experience in America and expand our engineering knowledge through research.”

With an emphasis on critical infrastructure, the research should help utilities across the nation become more resilient to the increasing threat of cyber attacks.

“We know that adversaries want the ability to disrupt our energy infrastructure, which could be devastating for our communities,” said Moe Khaleel, associate laboratory director for national security sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory ( “Serc 3 will focus on establishing regional partnerships and developing science-based options to mitigate these threats and keep everyone’s lights on.”

Puesh Kumar, director of the US Department of Energy’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security & Emergency Response (CESER), added: “I applaud Auburn University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s collaborative effort to advance grid cyber security. Everyone must come together – industry, the national laboratories, academia, as well as state and federal governments – if we are to succeed against the growing cyber threats facing the US energy sector from malicious actors and nation-states like the People’s Republic of China. This partnership is a critical example of that.”

Frank Cilluffo, director of the McCrary Institute (, said the project was at the core of what the institute does.

“A secure and resilient grid is a national and regional imperative,” Cilluffo said. “Spearheaded by James Goosby at McCrary and Tricia Schulz at Oak Ridge, we will create new research to rapidly identify, share and mitigate cyber-security risks while we train the future workforce we need to keep us safe.”

Auburn University ( is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet regional, national and global needs.