Designing actively secure, highly available industrial automation applications

Awais Tanveer, Roopak Sinha, Stephen G. MacDonell, Paulo Leitao, Valeriy Vyatkin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) execute critical control software that drives Industrial Automation and Control Systems (IACS). PLCs can become easy targets for cyber-adversaries as they are resource-constrained and are usually built using legacy, less-capable security measures. Security attacks can significantly affect system availability, which is an essential requirement for IACS. We propose a method to make PLC applications more security-aware. Based on the well-known IEC 61499 function blocks standard for developing IACS software, our method allows designers to annotate critical parts of an application during design time. On deployment, these parts of the application are automatically secured using appropriate security mechanisms to detect and prevent attacks. We present a summary of availability attacks on distributed IACS applications that can be mitigated by our proposed method. Security mechanisms are achieved using IEC 61499 Service-Interface Function Blocks (SIFBs) embedding Intrusion Detection and Prevention System (IDPS), added to the application at compile time. This method is more amenable to providing active security protection from attacks on previously unknown (zero-day) vulnerabilities. We test our solution on an IEC 61499 application executing on Wago PFC200 PLCs. Experiments show that we can successfully log and prevent attacks at the application level as well as help the application to gracefully degrade into safe mode, subsequently improving availability.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 17th IEEE International Conference on Industrial Informatics, INDIN 2019
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781728129273
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019
MoE publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication
EventIEEE International Conference on Industrial Informatics - Aalto University, Helsinki-Espoo, Finland
Duration: 22 Jul 201925 Jul 2019
Conference number: 17

Publication series

NameIEEE International Conference on Industrial Informatics
ISSN (Print)1935-4576
ISSN (Electronic)2378-363X


ConferenceIEEE International Conference on Industrial Informatics
Abbreviated titleINDIN
Internet address


  • Active security protection
  • Availability
  • IEC 61499
  • Industrial automation and control systems
  • Intrusion detection and prevention
  • Programmable Logic Controllers


Dive into the research topics of 'Designing actively secure, highly available industrial automation applications'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this