UNSW Canberra researchers are developing a cyber threat intelligence platform aimed at protecting IoT-enhanced combat systems, such as warfare ships, aircrafts and drones, against cyberattacks.

Funded by the Defence Science and Technology Group and led by Dr Nour Moustafa, the team will develop a platform that identifies and prioritises cyber risks for Internet of Things (IoT) enhanced combat systems without human interference, using artificial technology.

The grant was announced in April 2022, and the team includes Associate Professor Benjamin Turnbull, Dr Nickolaos Koroniotis and Dr Marwa Keshk.

Dr Moustafa explained that combat systems have a complex process requiring coordinated physical devices and applications.

“The emergence of IoT has significantly improved combat systems and enhanced their flexibility and management,” he said.

“An IoT paradigm connects physical devices, such as sensors and actuators, to the internet to monitor and control them and facilitate various automated services.”

IoT has been integrated with military and defence systems – the Internet of Battlefield Things (IoBT) or IoT-enhanced combat system – creating a network of sensors, wearables and IoT devices.

“IoBT is an IoT category for combat and warfare operations,” Dr Moustafa said.

“For example, in the maritime industry, the IoT-enhanced combat systems optimise and streamline every aspect of operations at sea, at the port and across the fleet – from ship tracking and predictive maintenance to crew safety and welfare.

“IoT-enhanced combat systems are also constituted the modern aviation industry to enhance the command, control, surveillance, and maintenance of multiple aspects of aircrafts and ships.”

The project's primary goal is to examine the cyber risks to the combat systems when interfacing with untrusted external IoBT environments.

The practical applications of the platform include the design of an IoT-based combat testbed to simulate vulnerabilities and attack vectors, as well as the development of intelligent cyber threat and discovery methods to recognise vulnerabilities and attacks from IoT-enhanced combat systems.

Dr Moustafa said the proposed platform will fill the theoretical gap in identifying and mitigating cyber risks in IoT-enhanced combat systems from network communications.

“The expected outcomes will significantly advance scientific research in the existing cybersecurity literature and strengthen Australian cybersecurity and combat systems capabilities in protecting them against cyber threats nationally and globally,” he said.