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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Florida International University (FIU) is teaming up with others throughout the nation to help safeguard power utilities from cyber attacks.

Researchers from different universities are working together focusing on vulnerabilities and challenges in the U.S. power grid system. Their main goal is to protect the hardware, make the system less susceptible to attacks and provide reliable delivery of power if an attack were to occur.

“A cyber attack on any part of the nation’s power grid could leave millions of people without power, resulting in serious health and safety threats as well as a major economic blow,” said Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Osama Mohammed, who is leading the team of FIU researchers. “Working together, we hope to reduce the vulnerability of our power grid and ensure the security of our energy delivery systems for the future.”

In addition to FIU, the team will be led by faculty from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and also includes faculty from Carnegie Mellon University, Lehigh University, and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

The project was made possible by a $12.2 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy plus $3.1 million in matching funds from the research participants.

It comes at a time when cyber-security is a top priority for the local level all the way to federal.

In the first half of 2015, the Department of Homeland Security responded to 108 cyber incidents that impacted critical infrastructure in the U.S. Following the pattern of previous years, the energy sector also led all others with the most reported incidents.

The National Security Agency (NSA) also reported that it has had intrusions into industrial control systems used in the electrical grid by entities with the apparent capability “to take down control systems that operate U.S. power grids,” according to the “Cybersecurity Issues for the Bulk Power System” congressional report.

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