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Defending Pressurized Water Reactors Against Stealthy Cyber Attacks

Farber, Jacob A. (2021) Defending Pressurized Water Reactors Against Stealthy Cyber Attacks. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The goal of this research is to improve cyber security for nuclear power plants (NPPs) by addressing the following questions: How might an attacker attack NPPs? And how can automated defenses defend against those attacks?

To answer these questions, this research takes a system theoretic approach. This means that we use dynamic system models to describe the physical aspects of both system behavior and any attacker influences on the system. The primary advantage to this approach is that it can make use of extensive system theory to understand the interactions between the system and potential attackers.

For the first question, this work focuses on extending zero-dynamics attacks to nonlinear systems. If a system has zero dynamics, it means there exists some non-zero control input that can cause a non-zero state, but results in zero measurable output by virtue of the system's characteristics. Zero-dynamics attacks take advantage of these zero dynamics. These attacks require an attacker to have knowledge of the system dynamics, but are consequently harder to detect than other strategies. As a result, it’s important to know about system vulnerabilities that result from possible zero-dynamics attacks.

For the second question, this work focuses on using state-estimation techniques. But unlike previous works that assume the attack can be detected, this work cannot make that assumption because zero-dynamics attacks require that the system go through some type of transient. This work develops methods for calculating an optimal transient that balances safety with accuracy, and develops decision rules to detect attacks in the presence of noise.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Farber, Jacob A.jaf166@pitt.edujaf166
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairCole, DGdgcole@pitt.eduDGCOLE0000-0001-9541-3198
Committee MemberVipperman, JSjsv@pitt.eduJSV0000-0001-5585-954X
Committee MemberClark, WWwclark@pitt.eduWCLARK0000-0002-2165-8448
Committee MemberMosse, Dmosse@pitt.eduMOSSE
Committee MemberEggers,
Date: 13 June 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 8 December 2020
Approval Date: 13 June 2021
Submission Date: 15 December 2020
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 213
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Swanson School of Engineering > Mechanical Engineering
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: zero-dynamics attacks, cyber-physical systems, attack detection, nuclear power plants, nonlinear systems
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2021 18:53
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2021 18:53


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