T&D World Magazine
California Awards Grant to Protect Grid from Cyber Attack

California Awards Grant to Protect Grid from Cyber Attack

GridCOM Technologies has been awarded a grant from the state of California to help protect the country’s vulnerable electrical grid from the growing threat of cyber attack.

GridCOM will receive $95,000, the maximum amount available, under the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program, specifically the Energy Innovations Small Grant (EISG) program. It brings GridCOM’s total financial raise to $1.2 million in working capital, which will support development and testing of a prototype system before the end of 2014.

With cyber attacks growing in number and sophistication daily, leading government, industry and cyber experts agree that a successful attack on the electrical grid is only a matter of time and would most likely be overwhelming. A recent Congressional report cited former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta as saying, “a cyber attack perpetrated by nation states or extremist groups” is as capable of being “as destructive as the terrorist attack on 9/11.”

The U.S. electrical grid consists of some 30 million devices that rely on machine-to-machine communications that are often less secure than personal online shopping accounts. The number of devices is expected to reach 300 million by 2020 as the Smart Grid, a modernized electrical grid that uses information and communications technologyto gather and act on information, evolves.

Current encryption relies on predictable mathematical equations that can be solved in less time as computer power increases. That is why GridCOM is developing a game-changing, unhackable and future-proof service based not on math, but on quantum mechanics and the unpredictable nature of the universe – science even Einstein considered “spooky.”

Using quantum entangled
photons and optical fibers, a decentralized key server is created over a geographic 
region. For a monthly subscription fee, utlities' wired and wireless devices can access this 
quantum key server over the Internet to receive incorruptible keys used in
performing symmetric key encryption. Due to the unique properties of quantum
mechanics, the quantum entangled photons can detect – with 100% assurance – any 
attempt to manipulate the initial creation of the incorruptible keys. No hardware or
special optical fibers are required at the device and no data latency is introduced by the
technique – an important requirement for grid compatibility.

The disruptive technology behind quantum encryption has been under development for more than
twenty years at universities and national laboratories. GridCOM will be the first to apply that technology to protect energy infrastructure.

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