The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a grant of $18.7m to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) to develop quicker response methods in the event of an attack on America’s electric grid.

Under the project named as Cyber-Physical Experimentation Environment for RADICS (CEER), the university researchers will utilize expertise, tools, and data from industry collaborators that include a utility, Dragos Security, ABB, SimSpace and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratory (SEL).

Through the funding, the university researchers will  create a testbed which will mimic the actual grid. The CEER testbed will represent a range of grid conditions under normal operation or when under attack.

It will be developed based on the previously built testbed work at Illinois.

The researchers will validate the new technology and cyber security tools on the testbed. .

CEER principal investigator and Information Trust Institute associate director Tim Yardley claims that the testbed will replicate grid behavior at a more realistic manner and at an increased fidelity compared to the previous efforts.

The result he says will enable researchers to not only verify but also validate cyber response and recovery tools at unmatched levels.

Yardley said: “Our goal is to provide a generational step forward that proves the recovery tools being built are going to be reliable and useful if an attack ever does occur.

 “CEER will provide that environment allowing cyber security professionals to explore, develop, refine, stress, and validate the technology they develop in support of responding and recovering in the aftermath of an attack.”