The University of New Orleans will use a $96,000 grant from the U.S. Army Research Office to build equipment that will help address cybersecurity risks to the nation's critical infrastructure, such as gas pipelines and power plants.
UNO researchers will create a so-called "test bed" of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems, which is used to automate industrial and manufacturing processes. The growing trend of connecting these systems to a much larger network, such as the Internet or a corporate network, makes them susceptible to cybersecurity threats, according to Irfan Ahmed, assistant professor of computer science and the grant's principal investigator. Dealing with those threats and determining vulnerabilities is an important task for utilities, he said.
"This equipment will greatly enhance UNO's ability to deliver the full spectrum of cybersecurity skills needed in the profession," Ahmed said. "This 'test bed' will be used for a variety of ongoing and proposed cybersecurity and forensics research projects at UNO."
The "test bed" will contain scale versions of three different systems—a pipeline, a water treatment plant and a power plant—and will allow accurate simulation of each. The equipment will enable UNO's computer scientists to research critical infrastructure protection which, according to Ahmed, is an area that receives insufficient attention given its importance to society at large.