NRECA and a team of technology firms and associations have gone into the cybersecurity business together.

The partners have begun commercialization work for REACT, a groundbreaking new cyber tool that combines an attack-thwarting platform from N-Dimension Solutions with an NRECA-developed anomaly-detection prototype that can identify a network intrusion within minutes.

“REACT accumulates layers upon layers of knowledge about the normal behaviors on a network,” says NRECA Chief Scientist Craig Miller. “By constantly monitoring all activity on a system and comparing it to the normal state, the tool can identify breaches in a matter of minutes or even seconds.”

Cybersecurity experts estimate that on average, a network intrusion goes undetected for six months.

“This tool collapses the 180 days down to minutes,” says Stan McHann, chief technology officer at Milsoft Utility Solutions, one of the REACT partners. “Financially, that’s huge.”

The REACT developers say the platform’s ease of use will be particularly beneficial to smaller utilities that many not have IT departments or cyber specialists on staff.

“This tool is not going to take a high-tech skilled staffer,” says Doug Lambert, director of technical solutions at technology cooperative NRTC, another partner.

The REACT team is planning to conduct demonstrations of the technology at co-ops beginning in August, and full pilot projects at six co-ops will start in early 2018.

Steve Collier, Milsoft’s director of smart grid strategies, says REACT represents a radical shift from conventional network protection regimens.

“Cybersecurity has always been about building barriers. This is a new approach: anticipate and respond. It’s a bigger net to catch the bad guys.”