Sacred Heart University receives $25,000 grant for cybersecurity project

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Protect Our Power awards SHU $25,000 for creating best practices for electricity utilities against DDoS attack protection  

FAIRFIELD, Conn.—Sacred Heart University has received a $25,000 grant from Protect Our Power, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit institute headed by professionals from the physical and cyber defense communities, as well as finance and government.

The organization’s focus is to strengthen the resilience of the nation’s electric power grid and protect it from a lengthy shutdown. If such a crisis ever happened, millions of Americans would be cut off from critical services, including food production and delivery, water supply, sanitation, health care, transportation, finance and all forms of communication, according to the organization’s website.

“The electricity sector is one of the most important, critical infrastructure systems that our contemporary society relies on for its normal operation. The ever-increasing dependency on this system demands it to be secure and resilient against cyberattacks,” said Sajal Bhatia, assistant professor of cybersecurity and director of cybersecurity programs at SHU’s School of Computer Science & Engineering within the Jack Welch College of Business & Technology.

Bhatia, who is the project’s director, has been regularly publishing his research work on denial-of-service (DoS) attack protection, which is the focus of this new undertaking for Protect Our Power. A DoS attack is a cyberattack that aims to render a machine or network unavailable to its legitimate users. A large-scale and distributed version of this attack, known as the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, interferes with users’ resource accessing capabilities by overloading networks and systems with an extensive stream of data.

Sacred Heart will be critically analyzing 10-20 security vendors and their products related to DDoS attack protection and act as a liaison bridging state of the art DDoS detection and prevention solutions to the best practices for US electricity utilities.

“Electricity utility companies managing this critical infrastructure face a daunting task of selecting the right products against cyberattacks from a wide gamut of companies selling security products in a highly competitive market, heightened further by high demand and fairly low entry points,” Bhatia said.

“We’re very pleased to have Sacred Heart University performing this important work for our organization,” said Jim Cunningham, executive director of Protect Our Power. “The electric grid is only as secure as its weakest link, so helping utility companies confidently pick appropriate products from reliable vendors is critical to the overall security and integrity of the grid.”

The project entails Bhatia and his team talking to vendors and utility company officials to understand their needs and identify product niches. Those involved in the analysis must then submit a final report detailing the pros and cons of each vendor’s product and how each niche will contribute general solutions to deploying cybersecurity products for the nation’s power utilities.

“This comparative analysis will, in turn, make it easier for the utility companies to make good decisions and pursue best practices related to DDoS attack protection,” said Bhatia.

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