CPS: Synergy: Securing the Timing of Cyber-Physical Systems

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project aims to build a framework for identifying, analyzing and defending against
timing attacks in cyber-physical systems. Timing attacks, where attackers attempt to
compromise the timing of computation or communication operations, can be particularly
destructive in a CPS because the correctness of system functionality is affected not only
by the data values of operations but also by the time those operations are conducted. To
address these types of attacks in building the proposed framework, this project includes
three closely-related research thrusts: (1) Thrust A: identifying and analyzing timingbased
attack surface and strategies; (2) Thrust B: conducting cross-layer analysis of the
impact of timing attacks on system-level properties; and (3) Thrust C: designing and
implementing control-based and cyber-security defense techniques for timing attacks. By
addressing critical yet little-studied timing-based security challenges for CPS, this project
should discover new timing attack surface and threat models, develop novel cross-layer
methodologies for analyzing the impact of timing attacks on system properties, and
correspondingly develop novel run-time detection and mitigation techniques as well as
design-time strategies.
The project focuses on two important CPS application domains, vehicle networks and
multi-agent robotic systems (e.g., a group of UAVs or ground robots). Systems in these
two domains can both be viewed as multi-agent intelligent systems and share some
common elements. Yet, they typically use different computation and communication
components and have different algorithms running at application level. The project will
address the specific challenges in both domains, and also evaluate the general
applicability of our methodology to other CPS domains as well.
In addition to disseminate our results through publications, workshops and release of the
framework, we are closely collaborating with our industry partners, in particular the
Toyota InfoTechnology Center, on applying our findings to practical industrial systems.
The research findings will also be integrated into the undergraduate and graduate
curriculum at Northwestern and UC Riverside.
Effective start/end date2/1/189/30/21


  • National Science Foundation (CNS-1839511)


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