ATHENE: New German-Israeli research cooperation on cybersecurity in the energy sector

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ATHENE, the National Research Center for Applied Cybersecurity, and the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure of the State of Israel are launching a new collaborative research programme. For an initial period of three years, researchers from Israeli universities will work together with ATHENE scientists to research and develop solutions to pressing cybersecurity issues in the energy sector.

The energy sector is one of the most important critical infrastructures of any modern society. Interruptions in the supply of electricity, gas, and oil can bring an economy to a standstill and cause enormous damage. The energy sector is already one of the primary targets of cyber criminals and state actors. According to a recent IBM study, more than 11% of all cyber-attacks on industry target the energy sector. More than 43% of cyber-attacks against the energy sector hit targets in Europe. The majority of cyberattacks are economically motivated, such as the 2021 ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, which caused panic at gas stations on the east coast of the US. However, cyber-attacks by state actors in the context of political and military conflicts are also on the rise. Germany has also been affected by state-sponsored cyber-attacks: The Russian attack in 2022 on the Viasat satellite network, which is used for emergency communication in Ukraine, resulted in the loss of control of 5,800 wind turbines with a total output of 11 GW.

Improving the cybersecurity of energy supply is therefore one of the most important and urgent tasks of application-oriented cybersecurity research. Since 2022, there has been a close energy partnership between Germany and Israel at the state level. As part of this energy partnership, ATHENE and the Israel Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure are launching a joint research programme on cybersecurity in the energy sector. For an initial period of three years, the Israel Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure will fund researchers at Israeli universities who, together with ATHENE researchers, will lay the foundations for improving cybersecurity in the energy sector. The initial focus will be on the development of new, practical architectures for a more cyber resilient energy supply, the development of methods for detecting attacks at all levels of the energy sector, and the development of methods for defending against denial-of-service attacks against the energy sector.

To launch the research cooperation, a joint workshop of the participating researchers from Israel and Germany took place on 6 May 2024 at the Goethe University Frankfurt, organised by ATHENE and the German Energy Agency (dena). Under the direction of Prof. Dr. Haya Schulmann, Full Professor at Goethe University, member of the ATHENE Board, and Visiting Professor at the Universities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, more than 40 people from German and Israeli research, industry, and politics met to discuss problems and solutions. Prof. Schulmann coordinates the research area within ATHENE that focuses on critical infrastructure security issues. The workshop was opened by the Vice President of Goethe University Frankfurt, Prof. Dr. Bernhard Brüne, and the CEO of ATHENE, Prof. Dr. Michael Waidner. After a minute of silence on the occasion of the Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is celebrated in Israel on May 6, there were greetings by Bettina Stark-Watzinger, Federal Minister of Education and Research (BMBF), Timon Gremmels, Hessian State Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science, and the Arts (HMWK), as well as representatives of the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK), the Embassy of Israel in Berlin and the Israel Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure. After introductory keynote speeches by Dr. Marie-Luise Wolff, President of the Bundesverband der Energie- und Wasserwirtschaft (BDEW) and CEO of Entega AG, and Chen Girat, CISO of the Israel Electric Company, Israel’s largest energy supplier, the content and details of the research cooperation were discussed.

Source: ATHENE
Additional Information: Israeli Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure