Secure Reprogramming of a Network Connected Device : Securing programmable logic controllers

University essay from KTH/Kommunikationssystem, CoS


This is a master’s thesis project entitled “Secure reprogramming of network connected devices”. The thesis begins by providing some background information to enable the reader to understand the current vulnerabilities of network-connected devices, specifically with regard to cyber security and data integrity. Today supervisory control and data acquisition systems utilizing network connected programmable logic controllers are widely used in many industries and critical infrastructures. These network-attached devices have been under increasing attack for some time by malicious attackers (including in some cases possibly government supported efforts).

This thesis evaluates currently available solutions to mitigate these attacks. Based upon this evaluation a new solution based on the Trusted Computing Group (TCG’s) Trusted Platform Modules (TPM) specification is proposed. This solution utilizes a lightweight version of TPM and TCG’s Reliable Computing Machine (RCM) to achieve the desired security. The security of the proposed solution is evaluated both theoretically and using a prototype. This evaluation shows that the proposed solution helps to a great extent to mitigate the previously observed vulnerabilities when reprogramming network connected devices.

The main result of this thesis project is a secure way of reprogramming these network attached devices so that only a valid user can successfully reprogram the device and no one else can reprogram the device (either to return it to an earlier state, perhaps with a known attack vector, or even worse prevent a valid user from programming the device).

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