Computing Reviews

Cyber-physical attacks : a growing invisible threat
Loukas G., Butterworth-Heinemann, Newton, MA, 2015. 270 pp. Type: Book
Date Reviewed: 10/21/15

“Cyber-physical systems [CPSs] are physical, biological, and engineered systems whose operations are integrated, monitored, and/or controlled by a computational core. ... Computing is deeply embedded into every physical component, possibly even into materials” [1]. Such systems are normally distributed and real time, and usually include embedded devices, sensors, and wireless links. Examples include transportation systems, smart power grids, patient monitoring, smart buildings, water purification plants, and many others. Many CPSs are safety-critical, because if compromised, they could endanger lives or cause large economic losses. For economic and productivity reasons, CPSs are frequently connected to the Internet, which increases their vulnerability to intentional attacks. The objectives of attacks may vary, from terrorist objectives to economic objectives such as collecting private information.

This book is an introduction to CPS attacks, including their corresponding defenses. It is written like a textbook with many questions and exercises. It is intended as an accessible introduction to CPS attacks with a declared audience of undergraduates and people with little computer science (CS) background. The attacks are classified by the industrial sector they affect: water, energy, health, transportation, and defense. The attacks discussed include most of the known incidents and are described in a clear and entertaining way. Attacks in industrial control systems include Stuxnet and threats to smart grids. A chapter describes attack steps such as code injection, man-in-the-middle, denial of service, and many others. Another chapter considers protection mechanisms and secure design principles. There is even a chapter on physical cyberattacks.

Overall, this is a very good book that provides a comprehensive overview of CPS threats and their defenses. It goes beyond its intended audience because the descriptions of attacks are very careful and the list of references is very complete; in particular, it can also be useful to researchers and CS students.

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Gill, H. From vision to reality: cyber-physical systems. Presentation given at the HCSS National Workshop on New Research Directions for High-Confidence Transportation CPS: Automotive, Aviation and Rail, Nov. 2008.

Reviewer:  E. B. Fernandez Review #: CR143872 (1601-0045)

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