Mitsubishi Electric develops cyber-attack detection technology for critical infrastructure systems

Mitsubishi Electric Corp. developed a cyber-attack detection technology that quickly identifies network traffic that deviates from predefined normal commands in the control systems of critical infrastructure.

The technology detects ingenious cyber-attacks disguised as normal commands targeted on critical infrastructure for electric power, natural gas, water, chemicals and petroleum without reducing the real-time control capability, which is expected to help ensure infrastructure stability.

Commercialization for electric power infrastructure is planned from around fiscal 2018. Other applications will be developed in collaboration with the Strategic Innovation Promotion Program (SIP) challenge for the cyber security of critical infrastructure.

Realization of the new technology was supported by the results of a development project that was commissioned by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and undertaken by the Control System Security Center (CSSC).

The technology is the first in the world, as of May 17, 2017, to define the detection rules based on the normal commands for each operational state of the control system and to interpret deviations from the normal commands as attack.

Real-time operation is ensured for the control system under our consideration when attack detection is in use because the technology does not involve a time-consuming matching process for suspicious patterns.

The technology contributes to infrastructure stability by reducing the detection time and ensuring minimal influence on control-system processes that must finish within certain time limits.

Cases have occurred in which advanced cyber-attacks have penetrated control systems to issue commands that pretend to be normal and are highly indistinguishable from real commands. Existing detection methods that compare incoming traffic with known suspicious patterns can fail to detect such attacks. Comparison with the enormous volume of known suspicious patterns can take time and cause control system operations to fail.

Mitsubishi Electric observed that normal control-system traffic in critical infrastructure differs if the system is operating, not operating or under maintenance, so the new technology uses different detection rules for each operational state. With cyber-attacks continuing to increase, it takes an enormous amount of time to generate suspicious patterns and search for matches.

But normal commands in control systems are limited, so the rules can be limited, which enables Mitsubishi Electric’s new technology to search for matches quickly and detect attacks while preserving the real-time operation of control systems. The company evaluated the processing time of attack detection for the control system under our consideration. The evaluation revealed that the new technology only takes 0.04 ms, compared to 2.44 ms for an existing technology, while the real-time requirement is 1.44 ms.

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