Maglaras, Leandros (2018) Intrusion Detection in SCADA Systems using Machine Learning Techniques. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Modern Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems are essential for monitoring and managing electric power generation, transmission and distribution. In the age of the Internet of Things, SCADA has evolved into big, complex and distributed systems that are prone to conventional in addition to new threats. So as to detect intruders in a timely and efficient manner a real time detection mechanism, capable of dealing with a range of forms of attacks is highly salient. Such a mechanism has to be distributed, low cost, precise, reliable and secure, with a low communication overhead, thereby not interfering in the industrial system’s operation.

In this commentary two distributed Intrusion Detection Systems (IDSs) which are able to detect attacks that occur in a SCADA system are proposed, both developed and evaluated for the purposes of the CockpitCI project. The CockpitCI project proposes an architecture based on real-time Perimeter Intrusion Detection System (PIDS), which provides the core cyber-analysis and detection capabilities, being responsible for continuously assessing and protecting the electronic security perimeter of each CI. Part of the PIDS that was developed for the purposes of the CockpitCI project, is the OCSVM module. During the duration of the project two novel OCSVM modules were developed and tested using datasets from a small-scale testbed that was created, providing the means to mimic a SCADA system operating both in normal conditions and under the influence of cyberattacks.

The first method, namely K-OCSVM, can distinguish real from false alarms using the OCSVM method with default values for parameters ν and σ combined with a recursive K-means clustering method. The K-OCSVM is very different from all similar methods that required pre-selection of parameters with the use of cross-validation or other methods that ensemble outcomes of one class classifiers. Building on the K-OCSVM and trying to cope with the high requirements that were imposed from the CockpitCi project, both in terms of accuracy and time overhead, a second method, namely IT-OCSVM is presented. IT-OCSVM method is capable of performing outlier detection with high accuracy and low overhead within a temporal window, adequate for the nature of SCADA systems.

The two presented methods are performing well under several attack scenarios. Having to balance between high accuracy, low false alarm rate, real time communication requirements and low overhead, under complex and usually persistent attack situations, a combination of several techniques is needed. Despite the range of intrusion detection activities, it has been proven that half of these have human error at their core. An increased empirical and theoretical research into human aspects of cyber security based on the volumes of human error related incidents can enhance cyber security capabilities of modern systems. In order to strengthen the security of SCADA systems, another solution is to deliver defence in depth by layering security controls so as to reduce the risk to the assets being protected.

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