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AIT establishes special cyber security training platform on behalf of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

December 2017 by Marc Jacob

For 60 years now the IAEA has been working for the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear power globally, supporting its members worldwide in establishing the highest safety standards for operating nuclear power plants. Today, this also includes effective contingency planning for managing cyber-attacks. The attack on Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant with the Stuxnet malware in 2010 illustrated that nuclear facilities are the target of cyber-attacks and that these attacks can lead to physical damage.

By establishing its special IT training and simulation platform, the so-called Cyber Range, AIT has recently made a name for itself as a specialist in all aspects of advanced defence strategies to counteract professional cyber-attacks on critical infrastructures, irrespective of their method or intent.

International pioneering role in cyber security through cooperation and R&D

As a research partner in the IAEA’s Cooperative Research Programme (CRP) on Enhancing Computer Security Incident Analysis and Response Planning at Nuclear Facilities, AIT has established a special research focus in the SIREN project (Technologies for Ensuring Safe and Secure Incident Response Strategies for Nuclear Facilities). AIT works together with international research partners on technical and process-based approaches to defending industrial control systems against cyber-attacks. The AIT Cyber Range brings together representative IT and control systems used in a nuclear power plant within a virtual IT platform, and simulates them with the cyber-physical systems used in such plants. The aim of the cooperation is to promote international information exchange, as well as specific education and training measures for the design and operation of industrial control systems in nuclear power plants with the goal of building to more effectively counteract future cyber threats in our ever increasing digital and networked world.

Project Manager Paul Smith, Senior Scientist at the AIT Center for Digital Safety & Security, reports that the primary aim of the project is to generate greater scientific understanding, as well as building up know-how and high-tech in today’s globally important cyber security domain: "We are able to play a considerable role in enhancing global cyber security by bringing together nuclear safety experts at the IAEA and the specific cyber security expertise offered at AIT, in order to apply new technologies from science and research at an early stage."

AIT Cyber Range provides the basis for a comprehensive Austrian cyber security exercise

Early in November, AIT security experts successfully demonstrated their special capabilities during a major national simulation exercise involving 200 participants, 24 critical infrastructure companies, and various public authorities. The national cyber simulation exercise was organised by the Kuratorium Sicheres Österreich (KSÖ), an independent, non-profit security networking and information platform, and the Federal Ministry of the Interior, in close cooperation between national authorities (Federal Ministries of the Interior, Defence and Foreign Affairs, Federal Criminal Police Office) and business, as well as the national Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERT). In a realistic testing environment, ten cyber defence teams with members from the participating cooperative partners and companies were given the task of detecting special cyber-attacks and using suitable technical and operative countermeasures at a company and national level in order to minimise damage.

Over the past years, AIT has succeeded in carving out a leading international position for itself by consistently and sustainably planning and implementing its research programme at the Center for Digital Safety and Security. Within the framework of extensive cooperation with science, research and industry, AIT has developed specific expertise and a portfolio of solutions in a global context. They include everything from new encryption technologies ("post quantum safe") and security-by-design approaches to the latest protective mechanisms using artificial intelligence, and including training and education systems. As a result, AIT has played a major role in national flagship projects, such as Trustworthy IOT for CPS (IOT4CPS) starting in late 2017, as well as in key European initiatives in the field of intelligent encryption technologies for cloud systems and forensic analysis technologies for block chain applications, taking an international lead in this field.




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