Visible to the public Biblio

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Book Chapter
Waseem Abbas, Aron Laszka, Koutsoukos, Xenofon.  2015.  Resilient Wireless Sensor Networks for Cyber-Physical Systems. Cyber-Physical System Design with Sensor Networking Technologies.

Due to their low deployment costs, wireless sensor networks (WSN) may act as a key enabling technology for a variety of spatially-distributed cyber-physical system (CPS) applications, ranging from intelligent traffic control to smart grids. However, besides providing tremendous benefits in terms of deployment costs, they also open up new possibilities for malicious attackers, who aim to cause financial losses or physical damage. Since perfectly securing these spatially-distributed systems is either impossible or financially unattainable, we need to design them to be resilient to attacks: even if some parts of the system are compromised or unavailable due to the actions of an attacker, the system as a whole must continue to operate with minimal losses. In a CPS, control decisions affecting the physical process depend on the observed data from the sensor network. Any malicious activity in the sensor network can therefore severely impact the physical process, and consequently the overall CPS operations. These factors necessitate a deeper probe into the domain of resilient WSN for CPS. In this chapter, we provide an overview of various dimensions in this field, including objectives of WSN in CPS, attack scenarios and vulnerabilities, notion of attack-resilience in WSN for CPS, and solution approaches towards attaining resilience. We also highlight major challenges, recent developments, and future directions in this area.

Conference Paper
Nika Haghtalab, Aron Laszka, Ariel D. Procaccia, Yevgeniy Vorobeychik, Xenofon D. Koutsoukos.  2015.  Monitoring Stealthy Diffusion. SIAM International Conference on Data Mining.

Starting with the seminal work by Kempe et al., a broad variety of problems, such as targeted marketing and the spread of viruses and malware, have been modeled as selecting
a subset of nodes to maximize diffusion through a network. In
cyber-security applications, however, a key consideration largely ignored in this literature is stealth. In particular, an attacker often has a specific target in mind, but succeeds only if the target is reached (e.g., by malware) before the malicious payload is detected and corresponding countermeasures deployed. The dual side of this problem is deployment of a limited number of monitoring units, such as cyber-forensics specialists, so as to limit the likelihood of such targeted and stealthy diffusion processes reaching their intended targets. We investigate the problem of optimal monitoring of targeted stealthy diffusion processes, and show that a number of natural variants of this problem are NP-hard to approximate. On the positive side, we show that if stealthy diffusion starts from randomly selected nodes, the defender’s objective is submodular, and a fast greedy algorithm has provable approximation guarantees. In addition, we present approximation algorithms for the setting in which an attacker optimally responds to the placement of monitoring nodes by adaptively selecting the starting nodes for the diffusion process. Our experimental results show that the proposed algorithms are highly effective and scalable.

Aron Laszka, Jian Lou, Yevgeniy Vorobeychik.  2016.  Multi-Defender Strategic Filtering Against Spear-Phishing Attacks. 30th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI).

Spear-phishing attacks pose a serious threat to sensitive computer systems, since they sidestep technical security mechanisms by exploiting the carelessness of authorized users. A common way to mitigate such attacks is to use e-mail filters which block e-mails with a maliciousness score above a chosen threshold. Optimal choice of such a threshold involves a tradeoff between the risk from delivered malicious emails and the cost of blocking benign traffic. A further complicating factor is the strategic nature of an attacker, who may selectively target users offering the best value in terms of likelihood of success and resulting access privileges. Previous work on strategic threshold-selection considered a single organization choosing thresholds for all users. In reality, many organizations are potential targets of such attacks, and their incentives need not be well aligned. We therefore consider the problem of strategic threshold-selection by a collection of independent self-interested users. We characterize both Stackelberg multi-defender equilibria, corresponding to short-term strategic dynamics, as well as Nash equilibria of the simultaneous game between all users and the attacker, modeling long-term dynamics, and exhibit a polynomial-time algorithm for computing short-term (Stackelberg) equilibria. We find that while Stackelberg multi-defender equilibrium need not exist, Nash equilibrium always exists, and remarkably, both equilibria are unique and socially optimal.

Aron Laszka, Yevgeniy Vorobeychik, Xenofon Koutsoukos.  2015.  Resilient Observation Selection in Adversarial Settings. 54th IEEE Conference on Decision and Control (CDC).

Monitoring large areas using sensors is fundamental in a number of applications, including electric power grid, traffic networks, and sensor-based pollution control systems. However, the number of sensors that can be deployed is often limited by financial or technological constraints. This problem is further complicated by the presence of strategic adversaries, who may disable some of the deployed sensors in order to impair the operator's ability to make predictions. Assuming that the operator employs a Gaussian-process-based regression model, we formulate the problem of attack-resilient sensor placement as the problem of selecting a subset from a set of possible observations, with the goal of minimizing the uncertainty of predictions. We show that both finding an optimal resilient subset and finding an optimal attack against a given subset are NP-hard problems. Since both the design and the attack problems are computationally complex, we propose efficient heuristic algorithms for solving them and present theoretical approximability results. Finally, we show that the proposed algorithms perform exceptionally well in practice using numerical results based on real-world datasets.

Aron Laszka, Bradley Potteiger, Yevgeniy Vorobeychik, Saurabh Amin, Xenofon Koutsoukos.  2016.  Vulnerability of Transportation Networks to Traffic-Signal Tampering. 7th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Cyber-Physical Systems (ICCPS).

Traffic signals were originally standalone hardware devices running on fixed schedules, but by now, they have evolved into complex networked systems. As a consequence, traffic signals have become susceptible to attacks through wireless interfaces or even remote attacks through the Internet. Indeed, recent studies have shown that many traffic lights deployed in practice have easily exploitable vulnerabilities, which allow an attacker to tamper with the configuration of the signal. Due to hardware-based failsafes, these vulnerabilities cannot be used to cause accidents. However, they may be used to cause disastrous traffic congestions. Building on Daganzo's well-known traffic model, we introduce an approach for evaluating vulnerabilities of transportation networks, identifying traffic signals that have the greatest impact on congestion and which, therefore, make natural targets for attacks. While we prove that finding an attack that maximally impacts congestion is NP-hard, we also exhibit a polynomial-time heuristic algorithm for computing approximately optimal attacks. We then use numerical experiments to show that our algorithm is extremely efficient in practice. Finally, we also evaluate our approach using the SUMO traffic simulator with a real-world transportation network, demonstrating vulnerabilities of this network. These simulation results extend the numerical experiments by showing that our algorithm is extremely efficient in a microsimulation model as well.

Aron Laszka, Waseem Abbas, Yevgeniy Vorobeychik, Xenofon Koutsoukos.  2018.  Synergistic Security for the Industrial Internet of Things: Integrating Redundancy, Diversity, and Hardening.

As the Industrial Internet of Things (IIot) becomes more prevalent in critical application domains, ensuring security and resilience in the face of cyber-attacks is becoming an issue of paramount importance. Cyber-attacks against critical infrastructures, for example, against smart water-distribution and transportation systems, pose serious threats to public health and safety. Owing to the severity of these threats, a variety of security techniques are available. However, no single technique can address the whole spectrum of cyber-attacks that may be launched by a determined and resourceful attacker. In light of this, we consider a multi-pronged approach for designing secure and resilient IIoT systems, which integrates redundancy, diversity, and hardening techniques. We introduce a framework for quantifying cyber-security risks and optimizing IIoT design by determining security investments in redundancy, diversity, and hardening. To demonstrate the applicability of our framework, we present two case studies in water distribution and transportation a case study in water-distribution systems. Our numerical evaluation shows that integrating redundancy, diversity, and hardening can lead to reduced security risk at the same cost.