Securing Cyber-Physical Critical Infrastructure (Book Review)

Handbook on Securing Cyber-Physical Critical Infrastructure: Foundations and Challenges

Das, Kant and Zhang have done a brilliant job editing Securing Cyber-Physical Critical Infrastructure, bringing together a who's who list of researchers and practitioners. Das is a University distinguished Scholar Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Texas Arlington with more than 500 published papers, three books and the editorship at Elsevier's Pervasive and Mobile Computing journal. Kant is a research professor at the Center for Secure Information Systems at George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. Kant comes equipped with many years of academic experience and industry exposure at Bell Labs, Telcordia and Intel, as well as government positions including at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Finally, Zhang, the third editor, was an assistant professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington from 2006 to 2008 and is currently researching databases and information security/privacy. Zhang received the prestigious NSF CAREER award in 2008.

This 800+ page handbook is divided into eight parts and contains thirty chapters, ideal for either an advanced undergraduate or graduate course in security. At the heart of this handbook is how we might go about managing both physical and cyber infrastructures, as they continue to become embedded and enmeshed, through advanced control systems, and new computing and communications paradigms.

Part I provides theoretical foundations in the area of control theory, game theory and epidemic theory as applied to cyber-physical infrastructure management. Part II focuses on security for wireless mobile networks. Robert Brammer who wrote the foreword of the handbook, emphasized the successes of the New York City Wireless Network (NYCWiN), motivated partly by the events of 9/11. NYCWiN became operational in 2009 and its cyber-physical systems architecture has addressed issues in the control of transport, public health, environmental quality and communications during critical emergencies. Part III covers security for sensor networks which are fast becoming integral for monitoring and controlling cyber-physical systems. These systems provide much of the feedback mechanism, forewarning or alerting to subsystems when things go wrong. As we increasingly become reliant on sensor networks, we need to ensure that they are as secure and reliable.

Parts IV and V position the importance of platform security, and address cloud computing and data security. The section on platform security includes chapters on traditional hardware and software vulnerabilities and presents solutions that could be employed to make it even more difficult for large-scale systems to be penetrated. The section on cloud computing makes sure to emphasize how systems are changing in terms of outsourcing to companies whose core competency is information technology infrastructure, platforms and services. The cloud, mobile devices, and online social networks are particularly creating opportunities for hackers toward data breaches, and this is discussed in detail.

Part VI and VII are on event monitoring and situation awareness, as well as policy issues in security management. These chapters provide approaches to systems monitoring, discovery and tracking patterns of interest in security data streams, discontinuous clustering, sequencing, geo-spatial temporal correlations and other event detections mechanisms. For those seeking examples of how such systems monitoring occur, there are equations, algorithms, proofs, process flows, physical infrastructure layout maps, pictorial evidence, graphs, tables, and example simulation outputs to spend hours and hours exploring further. Finally, policies, access control and formal analysis methods for overseeing security in cyber-physical critical infrastructure are also shown.

The biggest highlight for me personally was the coming together of Parts I–VII in the security issues in real-world systems presented in Part VIII which brings home the relevance and timeliness of this handbook today. Chapters 25–30 could have been a book in their own right for their depth of insight into emerging smart infrastructures – including smart grids, automotive information technology, mobile health care systems, internet infrastructure, emergency vehicular networks, and more broadly unified telecommunications infrastructure using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). It is not too difficult to see the complexities of these big systems needing to interact with each other and the security and privacy concerns this might raise.

As noted by the authors, the handbook could be used to cover courses on security and robustness of computer networks, the security in physical infrastructure, or even the security in cyber infrastructure. Today, we are witnessing a paradigm shift toward autonomous systems, and despite most physical infrastructure being considered legacy, even the old wires and cables are becoming “switched onto” the cyber. An understanding of both these elements is crucial in engineering and maintaining better working and resilient systems for the future.

Citation: Katina Michael, [Book Review]: Handbook on Securing Cyber-Physical Critical Infrastructure: Foundations and Challenges, by S.K. Das, K. Kant, N. Zhang. Elsevier|Morgan Kaufmann, Volume 31, Issue 8, November 2012, p. 1013: DOI:

Securing the Cloud (book review)

Securing the Cloud: Cloud Computer Security Techniques and Tactics

    With so much buzz around Cloud Computing, books like this one written by Winkler are much in demand. Winkler's experience in the computing business shines through and as readers we are spoiled with a great deal of useful strategic information – a jam packed almost 300 page volume on securing the cloud.

    Winkler, presently a senior associate at Booz Allen Hamilton has had more than 30 years of experience servicing U.S. Government clients, and as Chief Technologist for Security for the Sun Microsystems Public Cloud, in applications engineering, and IT operations and management in a number of organizations. Winkler has numerous technical conference publications, and among his many achievements, he was a visiting cyber security expert authoring the Information Security policy for the Government of Malaysia.

    The book begins with a well-needed introduction for those who are new to cloud computing. Winkler describes how the cloud works, the importance of securing the cloud, and its fundamental architecture.

    Chapter 2 goes into greater detail on the cloud reference architecture, introducing cloud service and deployment models and differentiating between public, private, community and hybrid clouds, and the cloud software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) models.

    To be commended, before entering an in-depth discussion on how to architecture a secure cloud, Winkler spends chapter 3 discussing security concerns, risk issues, and legal aspects. As a privacy specialist myself, it is very heartening to see that Winkler addresses those very difficult questions that every client asks about privacy and confidentiality concerns, data ownership and locale concerns, and other aspects like emerging threats, third parties, data privacy and litigation.

    Chapters 4–6 are all about ways in which we can secure the cloud – the underlying architecture, data security, and key strategies and best practices. These chapters are at the heart of the book as we are taken on a guided tour about standards and policies, honeypots, sandboxes, network and cabling patterns and the like. For the important area of data security within the cloud we are introduced to the idea of control over data and public cloud economics, ownership and custodianship, data encryption and its limitations, and access control techniques for data categorization. The deletion of data within the cloud is also discussed, something that is becoming vital from the lessons learnt in the social media environment. Key strategies and best practices in securing the cloud are presented in chapter 6 from first principals. NIST definitions are given in security controls and unclassified and classified models are compared. Security monitoring by the CIA is addressed and the emphasis is placed on reliable streams of data – a notion introduced as MaaS – Monitoring as a Service.

    Chapter 7 and 8 look at security criteria with respect to building an internal cloud (i.e. private cloud) versus selecting an external cloud provider. The internal cloud choice is based on the security implications offset between a shared versus dedicated resources solution. Criteria for ensuring a secure private cloud include: network considerations, data center considerations, operational security considerations, and regulation. For the selection of an external cloud provider a discussion is given on assurance and how to verify independently the claims made by a given vendor.

    Chapter 9 is about evaluating your cloud security using an information security framework. Checklists are provided to help cloud personnel evaluate the stealth of their given solution, including a manner for placing metrics against the checklists.

    Chapter 10 is about operating a cloud and is very much intended for the manager who is in charge of the business case toward a cloud solution. Processes, efficiency and cost are all covered aspects as well as security operations activities that typically are related to business continuity and recovery.

    As a former pre-sales engineer, what I loved most about this book was the obvious hands-on strategic and technical experience that Winkler bought to every aspect of it. It is really a practitioner's guide to cloud computing security. I appreciated the descriptive figures, the tips, the warnings, the notes, the tools, the stories of failures and successes but most of all the comprehensive nature of the real world descriptions.

    Citation: Katina Michael, [Book Review] "Securing the Cloud: Cloud Computer Security Techniques and Tactics" by Vic (J.R.) Winkler. Computers & Security,  Vol. 31, No. 4, June 2012, Page 633, Syngress|Elsevier,