School of Informatics
Yuning Jiang defends her thesis "Vulnerability Analysis for Critical Infrastructures".
The dissertation will be held in Insikten, Portalen, but will also be livestreamed on Zoom.
The rapid advances in information and communication technology enable a shift from diverse systems empowered mainly by either hardware or software to cyber-physical systems (CPSs) that drive critical infrastructures (CIs), such as energy and manufacturing systems. However, alongside the expected enhancements in efficiency and reliability, the induced connectivity exposes these CIs to cyberattacks such as the Stuxnet and WannaCry ransomware cyber incidents. Therefore, the need to improve cybersecurity expectations of CIs through vulnerability assessments cannot be overstated. Yet, CI cybersecurity has intrinsic challenges due to the convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) as well as the cross-layer dependencies inherent to CPS based CIs. Different IT and OT security terminologies also lead to ambiguities induced by knowledge gaps in CI cybersecurity. Moreover, current vulnerability-assessment processes in CIs are mostly subjective and human-centered. The imprecise nature of manual vulnerability assessment operations and the massive volume of data cause an unbearable burden for security analysts. Latest advances in cybersecurity solutions based on machine-learning promise to shift such burden to digital alternatives. Nevertheless, the heterogeneity, diversity and information gaps in existing vulnerability data repositories hamper accurate assessments anticipated by these ML-based approaches. To address these issues, this thesis presents a comprehensive approach that unleashes the power of ML advances while still involving human operators in assessing cybersecurity vulnerabilities within deployed CI networks.
Specifically, this thesis proposes data-driven cybersecurity indicators to bridge vulnerability management gaps induced by ad-hoc and subjective auditing processes as well as to increase the level of automation in vulnerability analysis. The proposed methodology follows design science research principles to support the development and validation of scientifically-sound artifacts. More specifically, the proposed data-driven cybersecurity architecture orchestrates a range of modules that include: (i) a vulnerability data model that captures a variety of publicly accessible cybersecurity-related data sources; (ii) an ensemble-based ML pipeline method that self-adjusts to the best learning models for given cybersecurity tasks; and (iii) a knowledge taxonomy and its instantiated power grid and manufacturing models that capture CI common semantics of cyber-physical functional dependencies across CI networks in critical societal domains.
This research contributes data-driven vulnerability analysis approaches that bridge the knowledge gaps among different security functions, such as vulnerability management through related reports analysis. This thesis also correlates vulnerability analysis findings to coordinate mitigation responses in complex CIs. More specifically, the vulnerability data model expands the vulnerability knowledge scope and curates meaningful contexts for vulnerability analysis processes. The proposed ML methods fill information gaps in vulnerability repositories using curated data while further streamlining vulnerability assessment processes. Moreover, the CI security taxonomy provides disciplined and coherent support to specify and group semantically-related components and coordination mechanisms to harness the notorious complexity of CI networks such as those prevalent in power grids and manufacturing infrastructures. These approaches learn through interactive processes to proactively detect and analyze vulnerabilities while facilitating actionable insights for security actors to make informed decisions.
Sokratis Katsikas, Professor, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Main supervisor: Yacine Atif, Professor, University of Skövde
Jianguo Ding, Associate Professor, Blekinge Institute of Technology
Manfred A. Jeusfeld, Professor, University of Skövde
Birgitta Lindström, Associate Professor, University of Skövde
Christoffer Brax, PhD, Combitech AB
Raimundas Matulevičius, Professor, University of Tartu
Mikael Asplund, Associate Professor, Linköping University
Tomas Olovsson, Associate Professor, Chalmers University of Technology
Marcus Nohlberg, Associate Professor, University of Skövde
School of Informatics