August 4, 2021

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Code Integrity Attestation for PLCs using Black Box Neural Network Predictions. (arXiv:2106.07851v2 [cs.CR] UPDATED)

Cyber-physical systems (CPSs) are widespread in critical domains, and
significant damage can be caused if an attacker is able to modify the code of
their programmable logic controllers (PLCs). Unfortunately, traditional
techniques for attesting code integrity (i.e. verifying that it has not been
modified) rely on firmware access or roots-of-trust, neither of which
proprietary or legacy PLCs are likely to provide. In this paper, we propose a
practical code integrity checking solution based on privacy-preserving black
box models that instead attest the input/output behaviour of PLC programs.
Using faithful offline copies of the PLC programs, we identify their most
important inputs through an information flow analysis, execute them on multiple
combinations to collect data, then train neural networks able to predict PLC
outputs (i.e. actuator commands) from their inputs. By exploiting the black box
nature of the model, our solution maintains the privacy of the original PLC
code and does not assume that attackers are unaware of its presence. The trust
instead comes from the fact that it is extremely hard to attack the PLC code
and neural networks at the same time and with consistent outcomes. We evaluated
our approach on a modern six-stage water treatment plant testbed, finding that
it could predict actuator states from PLC inputs with near-100% accuracy, and
thus could detect all 120 effective code mutations that we subjected the PLCs
to. Finally, we found that it is not practically possible to simultaneously
modify the PLC code and apply discreet adversarial noise to our attesters in a
way that leads to consistent (mis-)predictions.