Cybersecurity through real-time distributed control systems

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Critical infrastructure sites and facilities are becoming increasingly dependent on interconnected physical and cyber-based real-time distributed control systems (RTDCSs). A mounting cybersecurity threat results from the nature of these ubiquitous and sometimes unrestrained communications interconnections. Much work is under way in numerous organizations to characterize the cyber threat, determine means to minimize risk and develop mitigation strategies to address potential consequences. While it seems natural that a simple application of cyber-protection methods derived from corporate business information technology (IT) domain would lead to an acceptable solution, the reality is that the characteristics of RTDCSs make many of those methods inadequate and unsatisfactory or even harmful. A solution lies in developing a defense-in-depth approach that ranges from protection at communications interconnect levels ultimately to the control system's functional characteristics that are designed to maintain control in the face of malicious intrusion. This paper summarizes the nature of RTDCSs from a cybersecurity perspective and discusses issues, vulnerabilities, candidate mitigation approaches and metrics.

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