A real-time system is an electro-mechanical computing platform that controls a physical process and must respond to inputs before a bounded time known as a deadline. When the deadline is missed, disaster can happen. Safety-critical systems, cyber-physical systems (CPS), and critical infrastructure including cars, airplanes, power plants, manufacturing robots, satellites, electronic roadway signage, and more, all rely upon the correct, safe functioning of the underlying real-time system. When its security is compromised, the improper functioning of a real-time system can cause hazardous and deadly consequences. The objective of this project is to protect real-time systems from cyberattack. The outcomes of this effort are advancing theory and practice of real-time security to the public benefit by improving the national security posture and enhancing human safety.

The objective of this project is to bring real-time security to the forefront as a research field by thoroughly characterizing the security challenges facing real-time systems. The effort revolves around investigating three key research aims. The first aim is formalizing the threats and solutions for securing real-time system schedules by way of understanding schedule-based attacks, mitigating such attacks with moving target defense, and detecting schedule violations with a specification-based intrusion detection system. The second aim enables securely using trusted execution environments in real-time embedded systems including response-time analysis, integration with the open-source Real-Time Executive for Multiprocessor Systems (RTEMS), and enhancing resistance to side-channel attacks. The third aim mitigates the threats introduced by fault tolerance mechanisms in real-time systems to enhance the security of fault recovery by creating frameworks for unprivileged and proactive recovery mechanisms. The integrative educational and broadening participation activities of this project advance the cybersecurity workforce development necessary to address skills gaps and shortages in the profession. Widespread adoption of the successful outcomes of this project will positively impact a broad range of CPS and critical infrastructure assets.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Computer and Network Systems (CNS)
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Indrajit Ray
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University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs
United States
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