Enhancing Input/Output Correctness, Protection, Performance, and Scalability for Process Control Platforms

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Virginia Tech

Most modern control systems use digital controllers to ensure safe operation. We modify the traditional digital control system architecture to integrate a new component known as a trusted input/output processor (TIOP). TIOP interface to the inputs (sensors) and outputs (actuators) of the system through existing communication protocols. The TIOP also interface to the application processor (AP) through a simple message passing protocol. This removes any direct input/output (I/O) interaction from taking place in the AP. By isolating this interaction from the AP, system resilience against malware is increased by enabling the ability to insert run-time monitors to ensure correct operation within provided safe limits. These run-time monitors can be located in either the TIOP(s) or in independent hardware. Furthermore, monitors have the ability to override commands from the AP should those commands seek to violate the safety requirements of the system. By isolating I/O interaction, formal methods can be applied to verify TIOP functionality, ensuring correct adherence to the rules of operation. Additionally, removing sequential I/O interaction in the AP allows multiple I/O operations to run concurrently. This reduces I/O latency which is desirable in many control systems with large numbers of sensors and actuators. Finally, by utilizing a hierarchical arrangement of TIOP, scalable growth is efficiently supported. We demonstrate this on a Xilinx Zynq-7000 programmable system-on-chip device.

digital control system, programmable system-on-chip, model checking, input/output processor, malware resilience