January 28, 2020
Web Feature

PNNL Looks to the Future in Special Edition Journal of Information Warfare

Research papers hope to inspire dialog about autonomic control of critical infrastructure

JIW

In a special edition of the Journal of Information Warfare, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers, and their colleagues and guest editors, Chris Oehmen and Samuel Clements, explore the revolution of technologies defending the nation’s critical infrastructure.

The journal is a resource for professionals with an interest in information warfare and digital security to gain access to the latest thinking in operations for the military, government, industry, and educational perspective. This is the first time PNNL has done a complete guest edit with the journal, including a special cover.

“PNNL is very excited to be selected for this special issue, because it means we get to use it as a place to talk about our strategy broadly,” said Oehmen, chief scientist for the cyber research group. “Having an entire journal means we can give a broad vision and provide support through specific technical advances made possible at our laboratory and with our partners and collaborators.”

A New Revolution

In this edition, Preparing for a Future of Critical Infrastructure Under Autonomic Control, PNNL researchers explore the foundations of key technologies that they believe will drive a revolution in autonomous resilience and control of critical infrastructure systems. The Department of Homeland Security identifies 16 infrastructure systems, such as energy, emergency services, communications, and financial services, as critical, because these assets, systems, and networks would have a debilitating effect if incapacitated or destroyed. While many already have some degree of automation in place, PNNL asserts increasing autonomy will be necessary to react fast enough and proactively against new threats.

“This revolution is needed, as the risk of cyber conflict playing out in critical infrastructure is driving us to change how we think about those systems,” said Oehmen. “Most of the systems weren’t built thinking about a world of conflict; they were built thinking about focusing primarily on functionality and efficiency.”

Autonomic control systems work differently than automation, as the systems need to understand their own state, handle complex actions when required, and communicate their status with a human operator. This is essential in the cyber environment where threats can seem boundless.

“If your system is in a hostile environment, it’s very hard to envision everything that might go wrong. When you have conflict playing out in that space, all the rules about what you might see go away. You can’t even list all the states that your system might be in, and that’s why we have to shift from automation to autonomic control,” said Oehmen.

Leading the Charge

Each paper in this edition of the journal was specifically selected through an extensive peer review process, with the goal to help readers understand various facets of the autonomic loop with human supervisory control and represent the key technologies. These include accounting for human influence in adversarial learning systems, gaining awareness of complex systems and how to reason over their present and possible future states, and exploring models for sensing and controlling critical infrastructure systems.

“It’s a future vision that is way bigger than PNNL, which means we really have to win the hearts and minds of people across a wide swath of technical areas, including government, industry, vendors, and academia,” said Oehmen. “PNNL wants to brand this idea of autonomic control as something that we’re leading the charge on. It’s a very large vision, and it’s important to have a forum like this to help us promote that vision.”

The Winter 2019 edition of the Journal of Information Warfare is available online or in print form from the publisher.