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Cyber Physical Security
for Industrial Control Systems

Image by Tasos Mansour

White paper

Industrial Control Systems: Engineering Foundations and Cyber-Physical Attack Lifecycle

A technical white paper that provides an introduction to cyber-physical security science and the art of cyber-physical attacks from the adversarial perspective. 

The major objective of the white paper is to give the readers comprehensive yet sufficiently concise background on the engineering foundations of industrial control systems and their security requirements as well as to introduce the cyber-physical attack lifecycle. 

The white paper is written for a broad audience and is meant to be understandable even for people with no previous knowledge of industrial control systems and/or engineering background.

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For whom this technical white paper is

Industry 4.0 is a new historical milestone in the history of mankind characterized by the emergence of engineered systems called cyber-physical systems (CPS): systems where the events in the physical world are managed with the help of modern advances in computation, networking, and control engineering. Industrial Control Systems (ICS) are large-scale cyber-physical systems of high complexity. Many of them are categorized as critical infrastructures (CI) because societal well-being depends on their reliability. Cyberfication of physical infrastructures led to the emergence of a new class of malicious threats called cyber-physical attacks. During such attacks, threat actors aim at achieving a desired outcome in the physical world.

This white paper consists of two major parts. The first part provides the engineering foundations of large-scale industrial control systems, their security considerations, and intrinsic aspects of cyber-physical exploitation. The second part introduces the cyber-physical attack lifecycle or steps the attacker needs to follow to engineer a targeted attack on a physical process or equipment followed by a realistic illustration of efforts involved in cyber-physical exploitation of a chemical plant that provides a "through the attacker's eyes" experience. 

The white paper is focused on the less well understood engineering side of cyber-physical attacks as opposed to their cyber part where the attacker is attempting to compromise computational and networking infrastructure. While the white paper uses an illustrative example of a large continuous physical process and operational technology (OT) environment, the described principles, considerations, and challenges apply to all types of cyber-physical systems.


Dr.-Ing. Marina Krotofil

I am a cyber security professional who specializes in Industrial Control Systems with a focus on cyber-physical security or how to cause physical impact by means of cyber exploits.

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