Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2021

Author's School

McKelvey School of Engineering

Author's Department

Computer Science & Engineering

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Industrial control systems (ICSs) are an essential part of every nation's critical infrastructure and have been utilized for a long time to supervise industrial machines and processes. Today’s ICSs are substantially different from the information technology (IT) devices a decade ago. The integration of internet of things (IoT) technology has made them more efficient and optimized, improved automation, and increased quality and compliance. Now, they are a sub (and arguably the most critical) part of IoT's domain, called industrial IoT (IIoT).

In the past, to secure ICSs from malicious outside attack, these systems were isolated from the outside world. However, recent advances, increased connectivity with corporate networks, and utilization of internet communications to transmit the information more conveniently have introduced the possibility of cyber-attacks against these systems. Due to the sensitive nature of the industrial applications, security is the foremost concern.

We discuss why despite the exceptional performance of artificial intelligent (AI) and machine learning (ML), industry leaders still have a hard time utilizing these models in practice as a standalone units. The goal of this dissertation is to address some of these challenges to help pave the way of utilizing smarter and more modern security solutions in these systems. To be specific, here, we focus on data scarcity for the AI, black-box nature of the AI, high computational load of the AI.

Industrial companies almost never release their network data, because they are obligated to follow confidentiality laws and user privacy restrictions. Hence, real-world IIoT datasets are not available for security research area, and we face a data scarcity challenge in IIoT security research community. In this domain, the researchers usually have to resort to commercial or public datasets that are not specific to this domain. In our work, we have developed a real-world testbed that resembles an actual industrial plant. We have emulated a popular industrial system in water treatment processes. So, we could collect datasets containing realist traffic to conduct our research.

There exists several specific characteristics of IIoT networks that are unique to them. We have provided an extensive study to figure out them and incorporate them in the design. We have gathered information on relevant cyber-attacks in IIoT systems to run them against the system to gather realistic datasets containing both normal and attack traffic analogous to real industrial network traffic. Their particular communication protocols are also their specific to them. We have implemented one of the most popular one in our dataset. Another attribute that distinguishes the security of these systems from others is the imbalanced data. The number of attack samples are significantly lower compared to the enormous number of normal traffic that flows in the system daily. We have made sure we build our datasets compliant with all the specific attributes of an IIoT.

Another challenge that we address here is the ``black box" nature of learning models that creates hurdles in generating adequate trust in their decisions. Thus, they are seldom utilized as a standalone unit in IIoT high-risk applications. Explainable AI (XAI) has gained an increasing interest in recent years to help with this problem. However, most of the research works that have been done so far focus on image applications or are very slow. For applications such as security of IIoT, we deal with numerical data and low latency is of utmost importance. In this dissertation, we propose a universal XAI model named Transparency Relying Upon Statistical Theory (TRUST). TRUST is model-agnostic, high-performing, and suitable for numerical applications. We prove its superiority compared to another popular XAI model in performance regarding speed and being able to successfully reason the AI's behavior.

When dealing with the IoT technology, especially industrial IoT, we deal with a massive amount of data streaming to and from the IoT devices. In addition, the availability and reliability constraints of industrial systems require them to operate at a fast pace and avoid creating any bottleneck in the system. High computational load of complex AI models might cause a burden by having to deal with a large number of data and producing the results not as fast as required. In this dissertation, we utilize distributed computing in the form of edge/cloud structure to address these problems. We propose Anomaly Detection using Distributed AI (ADDAI) that can easily span out geographically to cover a large number of IoT sources. Due to its distributed nature, it guarantees critical IIoT requirements such as high speed, robustness against a single point of failure, low communication overhead, privacy, and scalability. We formulate the communication cost which is minimized and the improvement in performance.


English (en)


Raj Jain

Committee Members

Roger Chamberlain

Included in

Engineering Commons