Mitigation of Privacy-Oriented Cyberthreat to Digital Manufacturing

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Prof. Ganesh Balasubramanian


The Technology Challenge: Performance of the U.S. Department of Defense activities mandates compliance with NIST 800-171 that essentially requires “Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information in Nonfederal Information Systems and Organizations”. Several efforts have demonstrated that a variety of threats that victimize hardware, software, network can lead to erroneously manufactured components. The attacks occurring on data, inserting of malicious programs, man-in-the-middle issues can all compound to impede and even potentially disable productivity and functioning of engineered systems. The deeper concern is that some of these effects on the manufactured components remain undetected until after their implementation to infrastructure and larger operational systems, whence their failure can lead to catastrophic losses in life and economy. The predominant focus of the scientific and engineering community interested in cybersecurity and digital manufacturing is predominantly on risk determination, while the critical roles of government affairs, international politics, insider threats, are mostly unaccounted for. The most challenging problems narrow down to predicting human behavior, since at the core of every cyber breach lie human shortcomings and intelligence. Thus, the humanities have a crucial role to play is establishing robust cybersecurity strategies. In fact, little is known about how accurate current cybersecurity models really are, let alone whether the human influence they predict are truly matters of cause and effect or mere correlations. The gap lies in augmenting the mechanisms and models to secure cyber-manufacturing systems with a better understanding of the social and behavioral trends of people because humans are integral in the design and development of technologies, securing them as well as attacking them.

The Humanities Aspect and Cross-disciplinary Integration across Lehigh: It is well understood that human-technology interactions are a critical aspect of cybersecurity and privacy. However, these studies have largely been conducted within specific socio-cultural environments (most notably, groups within the United States that enjoy relatively broad access to sophisticated technology). There is need to gain greater understandings of human-technology interaction for privacy amongst communities that have not previously been examined, and require expertise of humanities scholars to comprehend the associated concerns. The testbed may include foreign communities that have critical privacy needs (e.g., due to living under pervasive state surveillance). Means of quantitatively extrapolating from such studies of one population to another are of interest in order to help broaden the scope of rigorous evaluation. Such efforts are particularly vital since cyberthreats to manufacturing and military critical technologies often tend to occur from foreign entities.


A simple question to answer, as a starting point, is “can we translate geo-political trends into actionable intelligence items to improve cybersecurity models?” In other words, does cyberinfringement on smart manufacturing systems increase when certain international events occur, Balasubramanian, Ganesh - #257 2 of 6 Page 2 especially in countries governed under surveillance? Is there a pattern that can be identified, quantitatively or qualitatively, to improve cyber risk detection? Potential Solution: Integrating elements of humanities in modeling cybersecurity models for digital and cyber manufacturing platforms can enable military planners and decision-makers, who are trying to understand complex human social behaviors and systems, potentially facilitate a wide range of mitigation and risk determination strategies. These approaches, currently limited to scientific and artificial intelligence models, can be supplemented with inferences about the causes of social phenomena based on real-world observations, both qualitative and quantitative. For instance, a problem statement could be to answer if the risk of a threat to an advanced manufacturing platform increase by changes in trade agreements and sanctions between nations.


The above ideas will be explored over the summer with the support of a humanities graduate student (Gillian Andrews) working in collaboration with an engineering graduate student. The benefit of working with a humanities student will be (a) a pragmatic input and reasoning to strategic approaches and (b) new perspectives and ideas about the risks and its impact. Specifically, the tasks for the humanities student, in synergy with the engineering graduate student, will involve analyzing and commenting on the data related to cyberthreats and (possibly) corresponding international events; establishing a pattern using data analytics and pattern recognition; classifying the potential correlations, if any, based on the international political climate. The contribution of the humanities scholar will be to potentially unearth the social and ethical implications that the raw data does not present by itself.