A framework and theory for cyber security assessments

Abstract: Information technology (IT) is critical and valuable to our society. An important type of IT system is Supervisor Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems. These systems are used to control and monitor physical industrial processes like electrical power supply, water supply and railroad transport. Since our society is heavily dependent on these industrial processes we are also dependent on the behavior of our SCADA systems. SCADA systems have become (and continue to be) integrated with other IT systems they are thereby becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyber threats. Decision makers need to assess the security that a SCADA system’s architecture offers in order to make informed decisions concerning its appropriateness. However, data collection costs often restrict how much information that can be collected about the SCADA system’s architecture and it is difficult for a decision maker to know how important different variables are or what their value mean for the SCADA system’s security.The contribution of this thesis is a modeling framework and a theory to support cyber security vulnerability assessments. It has a particular focus on SCADA systems. The thesis is a composite of six papers. Paper A describes a template stating how probabilistic relational models can be used to connect architecture models with cyber security theory. Papers B through E contribute with theory on operational security. More precisely, they contribute with theory on: discovery of software vulnerabilities (paper B), remote arbitrary code exploits (paper C), intrusion detection (paper D) and denial-of-service attacks (paper E). Paper F describes how the contribution of paper A is combined with the contributions of papers B through E and other operationalized cyber security theory. The result is a decision support tool called the Cyber Security Modeling Language (CySeMoL). This tool produces a vulnerability assessment for a system based on an architecture model of it.

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