Polytechnique Examines Supply Chain Cybersecurity

Hackers could attack the weakest links in the supply chain and then infiltrate the computer networks of some of the largest companies on the planet, fears a Polytechnique Montreal expert. (Photo: 123RF)

Hackers could attack the weakest links in the supply chain and then infiltrate the computer networks of some of the largest companies on the planet, fears a Polytechnique Montreal expert.

While giants like Apple or Airbus can afford to make their networks virtually impenetrable, Professor Nora Cuppens said, the same is not necessarily true for the hundreds, if not thousands, of vendors they deal with on a regular basis. Therefore, malicious actors could decide to attack these small businesses and then trace them back to their large customers.

To counter this threat, Polytechnique Montréal announced on Thursday the launch of the activities of the CRITiCAL (Cyber-Resilience of Infrastructures of Transport Systems and Logistics Chains) chair, a five-year scientific partnership with the Institute for Research in Technology (IRT). , SystemX, in France.

“Pirates say to themselves, ‘Instead of attacking a tightly locked, tightly locked car, I’m going to attack a car that I can steal pretty quickly,” Professor Cuppens explained exclusively to The Canadian Press. supervise the activities of this new chair on this side of the Atlantic.

“It is through small and medium-sized companies, the subcontractors that make up the supply chain, that hackers will reach large groups. (…) When you make a system, the hacker will look for a vulnerability in that system, that’s how he does it. And then from this vulnerability, it will hit its system-level goal. “

Hackers, he continues, are well aware that multinationals deploy immense resources and spend colossal sums to protect themselves from unauthorized intrusions and detect those that do occur. Therefore, it is more logical and efficient for them to find a secondary door that is less closed than to try to enter through the main door.

Professor Cuppens is also director of Polytechnique’s new Maritime Cyber ​​Security Center of Excellence in Canada, dedicated to the cyber security of ships and critical maritime infrastructure, announced in January.

Since ships are only one part of the supply chain, it made sense to be interested in others as well, explained Professor Cuppens.

Cyber ​​resilience

The work of the new research chair will revolve around three main axes.

We will first analyze the threat to the transportation and logistics systems, in order to better understand it.

We will also study the contribution of artificial intelligence techniques to strengthen the cyber resilience of transportation and logistics systems. Three sub-projects will be dedicated to this axis: the use of reinforced learning to improve cybersecurity; the resistance of machine learning techniques to adverse attacks; and deterrence techniques to attract hackers.

Finally, we will focus on strengthening and assessing the resilience of transportation and logistics systems.

Since the supply chain is made up of dozens or hundreds of links possibly spread across the globe, Professor Cuppens said, it is important to be able to assess how well this chain will be able to withstand the compromise of one of these components.

“If you want to solve a problem, you have to ask,” he summarized. We have to organize ourselves to see to what extent our system is able to configure itself in such a way that if (a) component (…) starts to behave maliciously, the system continues anyway. The idea is to have what are called resilience metrics: how is our system able to resist or not? “

The research will be carried out with the co-supervision of the two organizations based on a shared location between the cities of Montreal and Saclay, in France. Six doctoral students, two postdoctoral fellows and two master’s students will benefit from the supervision of engineer-researchers from IRT SystemX and professor-researchers from Polytechnique Montréal.


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