Sunday, March 3, 2024

Three-year project aims to protect infrastructure from cyber attack

The University of Sheffield Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Centre at Rotherham is leading a new international project to protect critical infrastructure such as power stations and water systems from cyber attack.

The three-year project, called Troci (Towards Resilient Operation of Critical Infrastructure), focuses on protecting the monitoring and control systems which make or inform operational decisions about infrastructure based on data from a large number of sensors.

The project consortium includes experts from across Europe who will bring their unique capabilities to different areas of the challenge. The University of Vienna brings its expertise in sensor networks and distributed computing to lead the development of the C&I infrastructure. University College Dublin brings interdisciplinary expertise in civil engineering and computer science, and will focus on applications in the water sector. And Holisun, a Romanian software company specialising in machine learning and cybersecurity, will lead software platform development.

With increasingly complex and autonomous control systems, cyber attacks on the sensors can have serious consequences. At the least, operators can lose reliable data on the state of the system – at worst, decisions are made on false data, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Infrastructure systems can be attacked deliberately, or by autonomous software which seeks out vulnerabilities. One of the first major cyberweapons, Stuxnet, was designed to attack control systems in Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities but went on to infect other industrial and energy systems.

Dr Hafiz Ahmed, head of controls & instrumentation at the Nuclear AMRC, said: “Cybersecurity infringements which target instrumentation and control systems of critical infrastructure can severely disrupt our modern way of life, which relies on direct and continuous access to water and energy systems around the clock. The nuclear sector is undergoing a digital transformation, introducing additional cybersecurity challenges alongside existing physical security concerns.”


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