Published On: Wed, Jan 28th, 2015

UVA Engineers Develop Drones that Fend Off Cyber Attacks

System-Aware Cybersecurity

The University of Virginia is stepping up its development of drones with new technology that has successfully detected and thwarted cyber attacks on unmanned aerial systems, a report said.

Engineering researchers from the university and the Georgia Institute of Technology have completed flight-tested scenarios using their System-Aware Cybersecurity concept and Secure Sentinel technology, Streetwise Media said.

Project leader Barry Horowitz, engineering professor and chair of the department of systems and information engineering, said the project can be applied to reinforce the security of many physical systems, including drones. Horowitz said his inspiration for the technology came after seeing a flaw in drone security, the Cavalier Daily said.

“About four years ago, I foresaw a need to add another layer of security beyond what people were doing conventionally, ” Horowitz said, according to the report. “I decided we needed to put security inside the systems [in addition to] preventing attacks from outside.”

“Our research focuses on providing additional security by employing an onboard, secure monitoring subsystem to detect illogical behaviors relative to the expected profile of a system’s performance”, he told UVA Today.

Researchers say that the protection and monitoring of drones will rapidly become more important over time as drones are used more frequently to fulfill important missions for the U.S. military and defense, Streetwise Media said.

UVa tested out a series of attack scenarios over the course of five days in October. They focused on four areas in particular, according to UVA Today: “GPS embedded-data manipulations, waypoint manipulations originating from ground or onboard sources, manipulation of critical metadata related to transmitted imagery and onboard surveillance and payload control breaches”, the report said.

Each scenario was created to reflect a real-world situation drones could potentially face. The System-Aware Secure Sentinel technology was able to effectively detect, assess and readjust system performance in response to every simulated cyber attack, Streetwise Media said.

The System-Aware Secure Sentinel technology was made possible by the multi-university Systems Engineering Research Center spearheaded by the Stevens Institute of Technology and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense. The technology has already been license to Mission Secure Inc., which will commercialize its security systems for the military, intelligence and civil sectors, according to the report.


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