CHICAGO (CBS) — The University of Illinois has received nearly $19 million from the federal government to study threats to the nation’s power grid and come up with ways to survive an attack.

If the power grid were to fail, so would everything else; communication, transportation, and health care all would grind to a halt.

Tim Yardley, associate director of technology at the Information Trust Institute at U of I, said threats to the power grid could come from nature and from cyber-attakers.

“It’s going to be a worm, or a determined adversary, or whatever it may be,” he said.

Yardley said outdated technology can pose a threat to the power grid.

“We’ve had this energy infrastructure for so long that it’s getting dated in some ways, and technology has advanced a lot in that period of time,” he said.

The university has received an $18.7 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to test the nation’s response to and recovery from attacks on the power grid.

Yardley said the university will look at things like early warning systems for cyber-attacks.

“How do you detect that stuff in advance? Early warning detection systems; which is one of the things that this program is working on as well. And also, how do you respond and mitigate it once it does happen?” he said.

The project will build models of the power grid, and run them first under normal conditions, and then with disturbances that mimic both cyber-attacks and natural disasters.