A Systems Theoretic Approach to the Security Threats in Cyber Physical Systems Applied to Stuxnet

Nourian, A., and Madnick, S.


IEEE Transactions on Dependable and Secure Computing, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 2-13, Jan.-Feb. 1 2018. doi: 10.1109/TDSC.2015.2509994


Cyber Physical Systems (CPSs) are increasingly being adopted in a wide range of industries such as smart power grids. Even though the rapid proliferation of CPSs brings huge benefits to our society, it also provides potential attackers with many new opportunities to affect the physical world such as disrupting the services controlled by CPSs. Stuxnet is an example of such an attack that was designed to interrupt the Iranian nuclear program. In this paper, we show how the vulnerabilities exploited by Stuxnet could have been addressed at the design level. We utilize a system theoretic approach, based on prior research on system safety, that takes both physical and cyber components into account to analyze the threats exploited by Stuxnet. We conclude that such an approach is capable of identifying cyber threats towards CPSs at the design level and provide practical recommendations that CPS designers can utilize to design a more secure CPS.

Related Videos

Related Technologies

Related Impact Areas

CREDC Authors

Copyright Notice

This material is presented to ensure timely dissemination of scholarly and technical work. Copyright and all rights therein are retained by authors or by other copyright holders. All persons copying this information are expected to adhere to the terms and constraints invoked by each author's copyright. In most cases, these works may not be reposted without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  1. The following copyright notice applies to all of the above items that appear in IEEE publications: "Personal use of this material is permitted. However, permission to reprint/publish this material for advertising or promotional purposes or for creating new collective works for resale or redistribution to servers or lists, or to reuse any copyrighted component of this work in other works must be obtained from IEEE."

  2. The following copyright notice applies to all of the above items that appear in ACM publications: "© ACM, effective the year of publication shown in the bibliographic information. This file is the authorís version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in the journal or proceedings indicated in the bibliographic data for each item."

  3. The following copyright notice applies to all of the above items that appear in IFAC publications: "Document is being reproduced under permission of the Copyright Holder. Use or reproduction of the Document is for informational or personal use only."