CPAC: securing critical infrastructure with cyber-physical access control


Critical infrastructure such as the power grid has become increasingly complex. The addition of computing elements to traditional physical components increases complexity and hampers insight into how elements in the system interact with each other. The result is an infrastructure where operational mistakes, some of which cannot be distinguished from attacks, are more difficult to prevent and have greater potential impact, such as leaking sensitive information to the operator or attacker. In this paper, we present CPAC, a cyber-physical access control solution to manage complexity and mitigate threats in cyber-physical environments, with a focus on the electrical smart grid. CPAC uses information flow analysis based on mathematical models of the physical grid to generate policies enforced through verifiable logic. At the device side CPAC combines symbolic execution with lightweight dynamic execution monitoring to allow non-intrusive taint analysis on programmable logic controllers in realtime. These components work together to provide a realtime view of all system elements, and allow for more robust and finer-grained protections than any previous solution to securing the grid. We implement a prototype of CPAC using Bachmann PLC and evaluate several real-world incidents that demonstrate its scalability and effectiveness. The policy checking for a nation-wide grid is less than 150 ms, faster than existing solutions. We additionally show that CPAC can analyze potential component failures for arbitrary component failures, far beyond the capabilities of currently deployed systems. CPAC thus provides a solution to secure the modern smart grid from operator mistakes or insider attacks, maintain operational privacy, and support N−x contingencies.

In Proceedings of the 32nd annual conference on computer security applications
Sriharsha Etigowni
Sriharsha Etigowni
Post Doctoral Research Associate

My research interests include Cyber-Physical Security, Embedded System Security and Industrial Control System Security.