Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) and other military aircraft have off-vehicle network connections for command and control, sharing sensor data, and coordination with other forces. This connectivity provides tremendous new functionality, but also exposes these military assets to the same security risks that plague laptop computers and web servers.

Current approaches to cybersecurity rely on patching systems after vulnerability is discovered. What is needed is a clean-slate, mathematically-based approach for building secure software. DARPA initiated the High Assurance Cyber Military Systems (HACMS) program to develop the technologies needed to counter cyber-threats to network-enabled embedded systems.

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Rockwell Collins led the air vehicles team on the HACMS program, developing new tools for building UAV software that is provably secure against many classes of cyber-attack. The goal of our work was to provide verifiable security; that is, system designs which provide the highest levels of confidence in their security based upon verifiable evidence. Our team developed system architecture models, software components for mission and control functions, and operating system software, all of which are mathematically analyzed to ensure key security properties.

We have prototyped these new technologies on a research quadcopter, and then transitioned them to Boeing’s Unmanned Little Bird (ULB) helicopter to demonstrate their practicality and effectiveness. In this video based on the HACMS phase 2 demonstration, we show these technologies in action, withstanding cyber-attacks on the vehicles.


For a more in-depth technical look at HACMS, view this video in our engineering area under Formal Methods.




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Posted by Rockwell Collins