Aussie researchers paid to make US drones unhackable

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Results to be released using open source.

A team of Australian scientists is booked to travel to the United States to develop systems to prevent drone aircraft from being hacked.

The work has been commissioned by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under a four-year $17.35 million secured by government research outfit National ICT Australia (NICTA).

Much of the work will be released as open source to help secure other critical systems such as aircraft, vehicles and medical devices, NICTA told SC.

The security systems will be subject to red team penetration tests in which researchers expect to use knowledge of the drone systems to attack them using any available means.

NICTA researchers plan to apply their expertise in formal verification, demonstrated by the highly secure and stable seL4 operating system released last year.

Formal verification ensures a system functions only according to its specifications and has been used in military equipment and nuclear power plants.

The NICTA researchers will form part of a team including others at Boeing, defence firms Gaolis and Rockwell Colins and the University of Minnesota.

NICTA security and environment business team director Dr Jodi Steel said the project was designed to ensure drones continued to operate during cyber attacks.

The project was part of DARPA’s High-Assurance Cyber Military Systems (HACMS) program.

"Now we will have the opportunity to greatly extend the scale, aiming to ensure the safety of a complete, real-world system, something considered impossible only a few years ago," NICTA software systems research group lead Professor Gernot Heiser said.

“NICTA’s selection for this project reflects our status as world leaders in the verification of operating systems."

Copyright © SC Magazine, Australia


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