Researchers at Detroit’s WSU Developing Cybersecurity Measures for Manufacturing Processes

As manufacturing processes become more automated, they face the risk of cyberattacks. Researchers from Wayne State University in Detroit were awarded a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to evaluate the characteristics of cyberattacks for chemical processes and enhance their cybersecurity.
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chemical process cybersecurity illustration
WSU researchers are studying how to prevent cyberattacks for chemical processes. // Image courtesy of Wayne State University

As manufacturing processes become more automated, they face the risk of cyberattacks. Researchers from Wayne State University in Detroit were awarded a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to evaluate the characteristics of cyberattacks for chemical processes and enhance their cybersecurity.

Automated manufacturing boosts profits, reduces resource use, and decreases human error. In industries that use chemical reactions, separation, and transport, these processes enhance production efficiency. They also are used in health care, water treatment, and irrigation systems. Attacks can compromise safety, profits, and production value.

The three-year grant will allow researchers to develop advances in control theory and algorithms that enhance cybersecurity through control designs and other frameworks such as detection algorithms.

“Our research will develop algorithms that detect cyberattacks and alert company personnel to their presence for chemical processes described by complex dynamic models,” says Helen Durand, leader of the project and assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science in WSU’s College of Engineering.

“Our project seeks to characterize the conditions under which the process automation algorithms can be made resilient to cyberattacks on various aspects of the automation systems so that attempted attacks are not successful.”

Durand and her team will determine the conditions under which cybersecurity enhancement is needed and create a mathematical formalization of different types of undesirable behaviors for chemical processes where cyberattacks may occur. They will also develop detection techniques designed to guarantee cyberattacks will not create an undesirable behavior if it does penetrate certain information technology defenses. Finally, the team will develop sensing and control capabilities for cyber-physical systems to increase flexibility of chemical processes to understand how they may be cyberattacked.

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