NSRC Industry Day 2014 posters and slides are available at the link.

INSR Graduate Seminar Series

Specification-based Attacks and Defenses in Sequential Control Systems

Speaker: Stephen McLaughlin Type: Broad research talk
Date: Wednesday, April 16 2014; 1:00pm     Room: 333

Control systems used in manufacturing, transportation, and energy delivery connect embedded controllers to IT networks. Recently, such systems have been gaining increasing attention from attackers, e.g., the well known Stuxnet attack. The majority of efforts both in attacking and defending control systems have focussed solely on the IT perimeter. We argue that this is insufficient. We first show that compromise of the IT perimeter does not necessarily allow an adversary to execute a Stuxnet-like targeted attack. In response, we introduce our tool SABOT, which incrementally model checks embedded controller code against an adversary-supplied specification. The result is an automatically generated attack program for the victim control system. Our results show that SABOT can instantiate malicious payloads in 4 out of 5 systems tested, even when the adversary does not know the full system behavior. As a response to SABOT-style attacks, we then present a Trusted Safety Verifier (TSV). TSV uses a combination of symbolic execution and model checking to ensure that all controller code satisfies engineer-provided safety specifications. We show that TSV can verify the safety of controller code from a representative set of control systems in under two minutes, a small overhead in the control system lifecycle.

Stephen McLaughlin recently defended his thesis in Computer Science and Engineering at Penn State. His past work has identified vulnerabilities in electronic voting machines and smart electric meters. His current work on specification-based control system security has been presented at CCS 2012, ACSAC 2013, and NDSS 2014. He is a two-year recipient of the Diefenderfer graduate fellowship in Penn State's College of Engineering.


NSRC Industry Day 2014 will be held on April 2nd-3rd 2014, with the reception on April 1st.

The INSR will be hosting a graduate student seminar series where students can present their work, get feedback and hone their presentation skills. Refer this page for further details and to schedule your own presentations.

Congratulations to INSR alumnus Patrick Traynor on winning the prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship.

The INSR will be hosting a graduate student seminar series where students can present their work, get feedback and hone their presentation skills. Refer this page for more details.

NSRC Industry Day 2012 was held on April 26th-27th 2012, with the reception on April 25th.

Congratulations to William Enck on winning the prestigious Penn State Alumni Association Dissertation Award.

NSRC Industry Day 2010 was held on 24th-26th October, with the reception on 24th October, 2010.

Congratulations to Kevin Butler, who won the Penn State Alumni Association Dissertation Award.

NSRC Industry Day 2009 was held on 13-14 October, 2009. Reception was held on 12 October, 2009.

Congratulations to Kevin Butler, who won a Symantec Research Labs Graduate Fellowship. This award recognizes students performing innovative research with real-world value in areas of information security, availability, and integrity. More information is available in Symantec's press release.

NSRC Industry Day 2008 was held on 7-8 October, 2008.

Congratulations to NSRC member Raju Kumar, recipient of AT&T Graduate Fellowship for 2008.

Penn State is among the first universities to be designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Research (CAE-R) by NSA/DHS for academic years 2008-2013. Congratulations to NSRC members and others throughout the department and university who have helped us obtain this designation through excellence in IA research.

Congratulations to NSRC member Hosam Rowaihy for receiving the King Abdullah Scholar Award from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). The King Abdullah Scholar Award is the most prestigious KAUST scholarship award and is conferred upon outstanding doctoral students to support their continued research efforts.

NSRC Industry Day 2007 was held on Tuesday, October 16th.

Together with the SIIS laboratory, we organized a 1 1/2 day short course on computer and network security on May 14-15, 2007. This course covered a broad range of topics aimed at introducing the concepts and techniques of information security as practiced in industry, and to highlight the opportunities and challenges for innovation in security. More information can be found here.

Congratulations to Patrick Traynor, who has been awarded the 2007 Pennsylvania State University Alumni Association Dissertation Award. This award is considered to be among the most prestigious available to Penn State graduate students and recognizes outstanding achievement in scholarship and professional accomplishment.

Industry Day, held on October 17th, was a great success! To learn more, click here.

Congratulations to NSRC member Ender Tekin, this year's recipient of the Cingular Wireless Graduate Fellowship.

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The Institute for Networking and Security Research (INSR) was founded in 2003 as the Networking and Security Research Center. Because networks have become ingrained in almost every aspect of our lives, the linkage between networking and security is a fundamental issue facing researchers today. Security solutions to protect the ever-expanding number and variety of communications networks and the information they transport are essential.

The INSR provides a research and education community at Penn State for professors, students, and collaborators from industry interested in networking and security. It also provides a unique avenue for interaction with industry; the members of the INSR actively consult with industry and participate as partners on funded projects. Member companies enjoy benefits for sponsoring research and having access to the latest results and technical reports from the INSR.

Hosted in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) at Penn State, the INSR is comprised of nine faculty in the College of Engineering, including eight members from CSE and one from Electrical Engineering (EE). Several of the faculty also have joint appointments in EE and the School of Information Sciences and Technology. The INSR includes approximately 50 Ph.D. and M.S. students and several undergraduate honors thesis are advised through INSR faculty.

The expertise of the members includes mobile networking, protocol design, performance analysis and simulation, wireless communication, networked applications, and large networking software systems. The INSR also boasts experts on Internet security, policy, secure operating systems, and access controls. Additionally, members of the INSR actively collaborate on projects on secure wireless ad hoc and sensor networks, high performance wireless networks, and secure telecommunication systems.

In the past 12 months, the members of the INSR have collaborated to raise almost $2.9 million in funding through 12 grants from federal or state-based funding agencies, including eight NSF grants. The NSF awards include two from the NeTS program and three from the CyberTrust program.

Again, welcome to the Center. Please be sure to visit the events page to find out about upcoming public opportunities. For additional details about the Center in general, please explore the center overview describing the vision of the members of the center.

-Thomas F. La Porta, Director