Novel Stealthy Attack and Defense Strategies for Networked Control Systems

Yanbing Mao, Hamidreza Jafarnejadsani, Pan Zhao, Emrah Akyol, Naira Hovakimyan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article studies novel attack and defense strategies, based on a class of stealthy attacks, namely the zero-dynamics attack (ZDA), for multiagent control systems. ZDA poses a formidable security challenge since its attack signal is hidden in the null space of the state-space representation of the control system and hence it can evade conventional detection methods. An intuitive defense strategy builds on changing the aforementioned representation via switching through a set of carefully crafted topologies. In this article, we propose realistic ZDA variations where the attacker is aware of this topology-switching strategy, and hence employs the following policies to avoid detection: first, pause, update, and resume ZDA according to the knowledge of switching topologies; and second, cooperate with a concurrent stealthy topology attack that alters network topology at switching times, such that the original ZDA is feasible under the corrupted topology. We first systematically study the proposed ZDA variations, and then develop defense strategies against them under the realistic assumption that the defender has no knowledge of attack starting, pausing, and resuming times and the number of misbehaving agents. Particularly, we characterize conditions for detectability of the proposed ZDA variations, in terms of the network topologies to be maintained, the set of agents to be monitored, and the measurements of the monitored agents that should be extracted, while simultaneously preserving the privacy of the states of the nonmonitored agents. We then propose an attack detection algorithm based on the Luenberger observer, using the characterized detectability conditions. We provide numerical simulation results to demonstrate our theoretical findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9099503
Pages (from-to)3847-3862
Number of pages16
JournalIEEE Transactions on Automatic Control
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Attack detection
  • multiagent systems
  • privacy
  • security
  • topology attack
  • zero-dynamics attack (ZDA)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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