Category: Cyber-physical Systems

This post was co-authored by Sagar Chaki

In 2011, the U.S. Government maintained a fleet of approximately 8,000 unmanned aerial systems (UAS), commonly referred to as "drones," a number that continues to grow. "No weapon system has had a more profound impact on the United States' ability to provide persistence on the battlefield than the UAVs," according to a report from the 2012 Defense Science Board. Making sure government and privately owned drones share international air space safely and effectively is a top priority for government officials. Distributed Adaptive Real-Time (DART) systems are key to many areas of Department of Defense (DoD) capability, including the safe execution of autonomous, multi-UAS missions having civilian benefits. DART systems promise to revolutionize several such areas of mutual civilian-DoD interest, such as robotics, transportation, energy, and health care. To fully realize the potential of DART systems, however, the software controlling them must be engineered for high-assurance and certified to operate safely and effectively. In short, these systems must satisfy guaranteed and highly-critical safety requirements (e.g., collision avoidance) while adapting smartly to achieve application requirements, such as protection coverage, while operating in dynamic and uncertain environments. This blog post describes our architecture and approach to engineering high-assurance software for DART systems.

In June, representatives of organizations in the government, military, and industry sectors--including American Express and PNC--traveled to Pittsburgh to participate in a crisis simulation the SEI conducted. The crisis simulation--a collaborative effort involving experts from the SEI's Emerging Technology Center (ETC) and CERT Division--involved a scenario that asked members to sift through and identify Internet Protocol (IP) locations of different servers, as well as netflow data. Participants also sorted through social media accounts from simulated intelligence agencies, as well as fabricated phone logs and human intelligence. Our aim with this exercise was to help cyber intelligence analysts from various agencies learn to think critically about the information they were digesting and make decisions that will protect their organizations in the event of a cyber attack or incident and increase resilience against future incidents. This blog post, the second in a series highlighting cyber intelligence work from the ETC, highlights the importance of critical thinking in cyber intelligence, as well as a three-step approach to taking a more holistic view of cyber threats.

The Department of Defense (DoD) and other government agencies increasingly rely on software and networked software systems. As one of over 40 federally funded research and development centers sponsored by the United States government, Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute (SEI) is working to help the government acquire, design, produce, and evolve software-reliant systems in an affordable and secure manner. The quality, safety, reliability, and security of software and the cyberspace it creates are major concerns for both embedded systems and enterprise systems employed for information processing tasks in health care, homeland security, intelligence, logistics, etc. Cybersecurity risks, a primary focus area of the SEI's CERT Division, regularly appear in news media and have resulted in policy action at the highest levels of the US government (See Report to the President: Immediate Opportunities for Strengthening the Nation's Cybersecurity ).

In launching the SEI blog two years ago, one of our top priorities was to advance the scope and impact of SEI research and development projects, while increasing the visibility of the work by SEI technologists who staff these projects. After 114 posts, and 72,608 visits from readers of our blog, this post reflects on some highlights from the last two years and gives our readers a preview of posts to come.

The Department of Defense (DoD) has become deeply and fundamentally reliant on software. As a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC), the SEI is chartered to work with the DoD to meet the challenges of designing, producing, assuring, and evolving software-reliant systems in an affordable and dependable manner. This blog post--the first in a multi-part series--outlines key elements of the forthcoming SEI Strategic Research Plan that addresses these challenges through research and acquisition support and collaboration with DoD, other federal agencies, industry, and academia.

The majority of research in cyber security focuses on incident response or network defense, either trying to keep the bad guys out or facilitating the isolation and clean-up when a computer is compromised. It's hard to find a technology website that's not touting articles on fielding better firewalls, patching operating systems, updating anti-virus signatures, and a slew of other technologies to help detect or block malicious actors from getting on your network. What's missing from this picture is a proactive understanding of who the threats are and how they intend to use the cyber domain to get what they want. Our team of researchers--which included Andrew Mellinger, Melissa Ludwick, Jay McAllister, and Kate Ambrose Sereno--sought to help organizations bolster their cyber security posture by leveraging best practices in methodologies and technologies that provide a greater understanding of potential risks and threats in the cyber domain. This blog posting describes how we are approaching this challenge and what we have discovered thus far.

Many DoD computing systems--particularly cyber-physical systems--are subject to stringent size, weight, and power requirements. The quantity of sensor readings and functionalities is also increasing, and their associated processing must fulfill real-time requirements. This situation motivates the need for computers with greater processing capacity. For example, to fulfill the requirements of nano-sized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), developers must choose a computer platform that offers significant processing capacity and use its processing resources to meet its needs for autonomous surveillance missions. This blog post discusses these issues and highlights our research that addresses them.

As noted in the National Research Council's report Critical Code: Software Producibility for Defense, mission-critical Department of Defense (DoD) systems increasingly rely on software for their key capabilities. Ironically, it is increasingly hard to motivate investment in long-term software research for the DoD. This lack of investment stems, in part, from the difficulty that acquisitions programs have making a compelling case for the return on these investments in software research. This post explores how the SEI is using the Systems and Software Producibility Collaboration and Experimentation Environment (SPRUCE) to help address this problem.

Cyber-physical systems (CPS) are characterized by close interactions between software components and physical processes. These interactions can have life-threatening consequences when they include safety-critical functions that are not performed according to their time-sensitive requirements. For example, an airbag must fully inflate within 20 milliseconds (its deadline) of an accident to prevent the driver from hitting the steering wheel with potentially fatal consequences. Unfortunately, the competition of safety-critical requirements with other demands to reduce the cost, power consumption, and device size also create problems, such as automotive recalls, new aircraft delivery delays, and plane accidents.

In some key industries, such as defense, automobiles, medical devices, and the smart grid, the bulk of the innovations focus on cyber-physical systems. A key characteristic of cyber-physical systems is the close interaction of software components with physical processes, which impose stringent safety and time/space performance requirements on the systems. This blog post describes research and development we are conducting at the SEI to optimize the performance of cyber-physical systems without compromising their safety.