Boosting cyber-physical security

A wide array of complex systems that rely on computers — from public water supply systems and electric grids to chemical plants and self-driving vehicles — increasingly come under not just digital but physical attacks. Bruce McMillin, professor and interim chair of computer science at Missouri S&T, is looking to change that by developing stronger safeguards for cyber-physical systems (CPS), thanks to a nearly $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

The consequences of such attacks could be catastrophic and range from financial ruin to loss of life, says McMillin, the project’s principal investigator. And the myriad access points to such data — from smart meters and security cameras to autonomous cars and wearable devices — only exacerbate the risks.

Owl MSDND illustration“The nation’s critical infrastructure is increasingly dependent upon systems that use computers to control vital physical components,” he says.

“The research aims to ensure that such systems ‘do what they’re supposed to do’ despite an attack by building in defenses that make sure each component behaves and works well with others,” McMillin adds. “The objective: produce from untrusted components a trusted CPS that is resilient to security attacks and failures.”

Jonathan Kimball, Missouri S&T professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Rui Bo, an S&T assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, are co-principal investigators. The research team also includes Jennifer Leopold, associate professor of computer science from S&T, and Aditya Mathur, a Purdue University computer science professor.

The project will test the more robust cyber-physical systems on a high-fidelity water treatment system as well as an electrical power test bed to align “concepts from distributed computing, control theory, machine learning and estimation theory to synthesize a complete mitigation of the security and operational threats to a CPS,” McMillin says.

“The key difference from current methods is that security holes will be identified and plugged automatically at system design times, then enforced during run time without relying solely on secure boundaries or firewalls,” he says.

The NSF grant includes an outreach component to develop educational games to introduce cyber-physical security concepts to children from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Around the Puck

Q&A: Miners got game

What was the most memorable sports team during your time on campus? As part of his research for the S&T 150th history book, Larry Gragg, Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor emeritus of history and political science, asked you to share your memories. Here are a few of your answers.

[Read More...]

Honoring new academy members

In October, 12 alumni and friends were inducted into Missouri S&T academies. Academy membership recognizes careers of distinction and invites members to share their wisdom, influence and resources with faculty and students. Some academies hold induction ceremonies in the fall, others in the spring.

[Read More...]

Boosting cyber-physical security

A wide array of complex systems that rely on computers — from public water supply systems and electric grids to chemical plants and self-driving vehicles — increasingly come under not just digital but physical attacks. Bruce McMillin, professor and interim chair of computer science at Missouri S&T, is looking to change that by developing stronger safeguards […]

[Read More...]

MXene discovery could improve energy storage

In spite of their diminutive size, 2-D titanium carbide materials known as MXenes are “quite reactive” to water, a discovery S&T researchers say could have implications for energy storage and harvesting applications such as batteries, supercapacitors and beyond. Their findings were published in 2018 in the American Chemical Society journal Inorganic Chemistry.

[Read More...]

A faster charge for electric vehicles

One drawback of electric vehicles (EVs) is the time it takes to charge them. But what if you could plug in your EV and fully charge it as quickly as it takes to fill up a conventional car with gasoline? Missouri S&T researchers, in collaboration with three private companies, are working to make speedy charging […]

[Read More...]