Director's Overview of Resilient Computing and Cybersecurity Center (RC3)

The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, through the Resilient Computing and Cybersecurity Center (RC3), proposes a strategic RT&D (research, training and development) program, seeking the creation of critical mass and expertise in Cybersecurity in general, but in particular, by venturing and focusing on an ambitious strategic research program in the area of Resilient Computing.

Problem Area

ICT (Information and Communication Technology) became so important in our lives that a great deal of society’s stakes is today placed on the cyber sphere. The pillars of this new environment are critical information infrastructures (CII), both classical (cyber-physical systems) and computer-based (the emerging Internet-Cloud complex), such as finance or public administration (e-government), social networks, or e-biobanks.

The center plans to address, in its research priorities: the sheer insufficient resilience of CIIs such as core networks, data centers and power grids; the risks to information handled by corresponding services; and the new risks of computer-borne physical damage, arising from the interconnection of the Internet-Cloud complex with cyber-physical systems, both using vulnerable controllers and gadgets.

Why Resilient Computing to address Threats

It is our claim that, in response to the challenges described above, protection paradigms based on classic security or classic dependability, albeit necessary, are insufficient if working in isolation, and in a static mode. In order to protect systems against sophisticated threats, including the combination of faults and attacks, it is necessary to investigate in advanced concepts and mechanisms promoting the enhancement of their digital resilience.

These objectives constitute key differentiating factors of the center, characterized by research towards a body of knowledge combining security, privacy, dependability, safety, sustainability — in a nutshell, resilience — of computer systems and networks. The scope of application is generic, but especially applicable to large-scale complex systems (CIIs), or extreme operating conditions (e.g., CPS/IoT, control, autonomous vehicles).

Scientific Focal Points

To achieve these objectives, we propose to build a team and develop research capacity and activity along four scientific focal points that we consider with high priority:

  1. resilience of infrastructure and control in CPS/IoT systems;
  2. internet and cloud infrastructures resilience;
  3. security and dependability of embedded components and sub-systems (HW/SW);
  4. data privacy and integrity in highly sensitive sectors (e.g., FinTech; biomedical; social).

Expected Impact

The impact of the center’s activity is expected to be far-reaching and long lasting, as the research themes chosen also meet other relevant criteria: currentness and societal importance, shown by the alignment with the R&D agenda of main international sponsors; complementarity and/or synergy with other R&D efforts at KAUST, as well as opportunity for interdisciplinary research with other centers.

In time, the goal is turning KAUST into one of the international poles of Resilient Computing and Cybersecurity. Likewise, the creation of a generation of highly-trained technicians and scientists in this area has high potential for promoting at mid-long-term, industrial impact as well as digital sovereignty of the Kingdom in the cyberspace.

Message from the director

KAUST CEMSE CS RC3 Paulo Esteve-Verissimo
I firmly believe that Resilient Computing in general will be a game changer in the craft of designing computer systems of today and future. Having been part of one of the teams that pioneered intrusion tolerance and resilient computing, I am absolutely convinced of the power of this paradigm. The threat surface presented to computer and network systems became too uncertain, dynamic and polymorphic to be addressed in a static way by aprioristic design techniques, and/or by isolated disciplines such as security or dependability. Teams, organisations, companies, nation-states mastering this paradigm will be at the forefront of cyberspace technology. As such, it will be at the centre of my vision and the inspiration for the research I propose to foster in RC3@KAUST.
Paulo Esteves-Veríssimo, Professor, Computer Science