Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Announcing the 2022 Trusted CI Annual Challenge on Scientific OT/CPS Security

 The Trusted CI Annual Challenge is a year-long project focusing on a cybersecurity topic of importance for scientific computing environments.  In its first year, the Trusted CI Annual Challenge focused on improving trustworthy data for open science.  In its second year, the Annual Challenge focused on software assurance in scientific computing.  Now in its third year, the Annual Challenge is focusing on the security of “operational technology” or “cyber-physical systems” in science.

Operational technology (OT) or cyber-physical systems (CPS) are networked systems connected to computing systems on one side and to either controls or sensors of physical systems on the other side.  Networked sensors and control systems are increasingly important in the context of science as they are critical in  operating scientific instruments like telescopes,biological and chemical reactors, and even  vehicles used in scientific discovery.  Given their increasing importance in the process of scientific discovery, disruption of networked instruments therefore also increasingly can have negative consequences to the scientific mission.  And, like OT/CPS everywhere, including commercial, off the shelf (COTS) OT/IoT, by definition, any control system can also have physical consequences in the real world, including equipment damage and loss of life. Indeed, NSF's recent update to the Research Infrastructure Guide (formerly known as the Major Facilities Guide) further clarified that OT is within the scope of information assets to be protected by the facilities' cybersecurity programs (see Sections and

Trusted CI has a long history in addressing the security of operational technology through its engagements with facilities that operate such equipment.  The 2022 Annual Challenge seeks to gain both broader and deeper insights into the security of these important and specialized systems.  To accomplish this, in the first half of the year, we plan to have conversations with personnel involved with IT security and OT operations at a variety of NSF Major Research Facilities.  In the second half of the year, we will leverage this insight to develop a multi-year roadmap of solutions to advance the security of scientific operational technology. This guidance will offer security recommendations in a way most relevant to NSF facilities, rather than existing guides that have different foci and audiences with different priorities and resources.  

This year’s Annual Challenge is supported by a stellar team of Trusted CI staff, including Emily K. Adams (Indiana University), Ryan Kiser (Indiana University), Drew Paine (Berkeley Lab), Susan Sons (Indiana University), John Zage (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), and Sean Peisert (Berkeley Lab; 2022 Annual Challenge Project Lead).