Cyber-Physical Systems


While harnessing cyber-physical systems could have enormous societal impact and economic benefit in many traditional industries, unique challenges are also presented as unexpected and abnormal systems behaviour can lead to disruptions which can have major impacts on society. 

Complex systems are difficult to build and manage and the extensive use of information and communication technologies in cyber-physical systems make them vulnerable to cyber attack. If the interface between complex systems components breaks down, the compromise can lead to a disruption ranging from small service interruptions to huge impacts on critical infrastructure such as transport or medical systems which could jeopardise physical safety and cause huge financial loss.   

Our research is developing innovative solutions and technological approaches to cyber-physical system design, management, and control which can be implemented in realistic and real cyber-physical systems environments to address cyber-physical systems’s scalability, heterogeneity, security, timely intrusion detection, and complexity. This not only helps to mitigate cyber attacks but also provides a framework to ensure cyber-physical systems are resilient against potential threats.  

Research in cyber-physical systems is closely linked with research into Resilient Infrastructure, Complex Systems Security, and Intelligent Security.

Competitive Advantage

Our researchers have diverse skills and interdisciplinary knowledge in cybersecurity, electrical, software, and systems engineering, and quality and process improvement. Over the years we have established an international research reputation as leaders in: 

  • complex systems and CPS 
  • Internet of Things (IoT) 
  • critical infrastructure and SCADA systems protection 
  • Industrial IoT (IIoT) cybersecurity.

The key aspects of our research working with leading industry, state, and federal departments include: 

  • design, detection, and cyber attack tolerant control of smart grids 
  • experimental demonstration of cyber-physical resilience in smart grids 
  • cyber attack tolerant dynamic control for distributed energy resources 
  • development of intelligent and autonomous cyber-physical anomaly detection models for CPS 
  • leading AI-based CPS’ data analysis, privacy preservation and security  
  • development of SCADA systems cybersecurity and intrusion detection  
  • advanced threat anomaly detection and resilience of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) 
  • resilience of distributed sensor networks against biasing interference. 

Successful Applications

  • Risk management-based framework for developing intelligent systems for natural disasters 
  • Software assurance for cyberworthiness 
  • A cyber-physical approach to improve mission assurance for remotely operated aerial systems and aircraft payloads 
  • Protection of data privacy based artificial intelligence in cyber-physical systems 
  • Secure and distributed orchestration micro-algorithms as services at the edge 
  • A collaborative host-network anomaly detection framework for IoT.

Koroniotis N, Moustafa N, Sitnikova E, 2020, A new network forensic framework based on deep learning for Internet of Things networks: A particle deep framework, Future Generation Computer Systems.  

Ismail S, Sitnikova E, Slay J, 2020, SCADA Systems Cyber Security for Critical Infrastructures: Case Studies in Multiple Sectors Cyber Warfare and Terrorism: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications, IGI Global, pp 446-464. 

Koroniotis N, Moustafa N, Sitnikova E, Turnbull B, 2019 Towards the development of realistic botnet dataset in the internet of things for network forensic analytics: Bot-IoT dataset, Future Generation Computer Systems 100, 779-796  

Al-Hawawreh M, Den Hartog F, Sitnikova E, 2019 Targeted Ransomware: A new cyber threat to Edge System of Brownfield Industrial Internet of Things, IEEE Internet of Things Journal [ IF 5.9]  

Keshk M, Sitnikova E., Moustafa N., Hu J., Khali I., 2019 An Integrated Framework for Privacy-Preserving based Anomaly Detection for Cyber-Physical Systems; IEEE Transactions on Sustainable Computing.  

Hassan M, Moustafa N, Sitnikova E, Turnbull B  2019 Privacy-preserving big data analytics for cyber-physical systems, Wireless Networks, pp. 1-9. 

Al Hawawreh M, Sitnikova E., 2019, Leveraging Deep Learning Models for Ransomware Detection in the Industrial Internet of Things Environment', MilCIS,  IEEE Stream, Nov 2019  

Rahman, M. A., Rana, M. S., & Pota, H. R. (2020). Mitigation of Frequency and Voltage Disruptions in Smart Grid During Cyber-Attack. Journal of Control, Automation and Electrical Systems, 31(2), 412-421.  

Macana, C. A., Abdou, A. F., Pota, H. R., Guerrero, J. M., & Vasquez, J. C. (2018). Cyber-physical energy systems modules for power sharing controllers in inverter based microgrids. Inventions, 3(3). DOI:10.3390/inventions3030066 

V. Ugrinovskii, Distributed H-infinity estimation resilient to biasing attacks, IEEE Transactions on Control of Network Systems, 7(1):458-470, 2020. 

  • Risk management-based framework for developing intelligent systems for natural disasters 
  • Software assurance for cyberworthiness 
  • Protection of data privacy based artificial intelligence in cyber-physical systems 
  • Secure and distributed orchestration micro-algorithms as services at the edge 
  • Towards developing critical system resilience metrics for industrial IoT (IIoT) with a special focus on privacy data preservation for SCADA systems 

We are actively involved in several community engagement activities that promote participation in cyber-physical systems research: 

  • Spitfire Memorial Defence Fellowship Award - The Fellowship encourages the development of advanced knowledge and expertise which will aid in the defence of Australia and is awarded to contributors to the future defence of Australia. 
  • PLuS Alliance – creates, enables, and deploys innovative research and education linkages between UNSW, Arizona State University (ASU) US and Kings’ College UK that contribute to a sustainable future
  • Air and Space Power Centre - Open seminar presentation in September 2020 
  • US Air Force Research Office - Window on Science (WOS) collaboration with US Air Force cybersecurity research centres  
  • Board member of the Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS), Australian affiliation 

Study With Us

Master level courses which explore the concepts of this research are: 

The course syllabus includes elements of CPS design, vulnerability assessment, and addressing challenges. Students can participate in Blue/Red team exercises to uncover cybersecurity weaknesses in cyber-physical systems and develop defensive mechanisms.