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Teaching Reliable, Secure And Survivable Distributed Control System Design

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Capstone and Senior Projects

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1227.1 - 10.1227.9



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Paper Authors

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Ronald Lessard

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Jacques Beneat

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Teaching Reliable, Secure and Survivable Distributed Control System Design

R. Lessard, J. Beneat

Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Norwich University


Distributed Control Systems (DCS) are deployed in power utilities as well as communication, transportation, and financial infrastructures. As demonstrated by power distribution grid failures, most recently in August of 2003, designing for reliability is an important need. In addition to inherent design weaknesses, critical infrastructures are potential targets of cyber-terrorism and protecting critical infrastructures against terrorist attacks is a national priority. DCS security and survivability need increased attention. One of the Norwich University Electrical and Computer Engineering courses that address these issues is EE411 Microcomputer Based Applications. EE411 is designed to give computer and electrical engineering students a capstone DCS design experience applying concepts covered in earlier courses. They are introduced to “SCADAville”, a municipal water system emulator modeled after a typical municipal water distribution system. The concepts of safety instrumentation and networking are introduced using Allen Bradley Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs). Students come to understand the advantages and disadvantages of ladder logic code for digital controller reliability. In designing Distributed Control Systems that make any connection to the outside world, the system must withstand attack from disgruntled employees, hackers or cyber terrorists. The system must function well even when the attacker breaks through the security barrier. In the EE411 course, the concepts of redundancy, robustness, and resilience are developed and reinforced in the laboratories.

I. Introduction

The President’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection conducted a year- long study concluding that cyber threats are a clear danger (risk) to all infrastructures1 . Byers and Lowe2 concluded that “The increasing interconnection of critical systems has created interdependencies we haven’t been aware of in the past". The current trend with new technology with DCS components tied together directly over the Internet results in very cost effective distributed control systems (Wallace3 ). The methyl isocyanate leak at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal India that resulted in the loss of 3800 lives4 has shown that industrial accidents have potential devastating effects. It is conceivable that an industrial cyber attack could possibly exceed the death toll of the 9/11

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Lessard, R., & Beneat, J. (2005, June), Teaching Reliable, Secure And Survivable Distributed Control System Design Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15460

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