Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering

Faculty Candidate Seminar


Air gap is not enough: Enhancing the Cybersecurity of Nuclear Facilities through Data Aggregation.


Dr. Fan Zhang


University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Nuclear Engineering Department


Thursday, February 4, 2021 at 2:00:00 PM   Add to Calendar



Dr. Steven Biegalski


The growing number and sophistication of cyber-attacks against industry and the transition to digital instrumentation and control systems poses significant cybersecurity challenges for nuclear facilities. Several nuclear industry cyber incidents suggest that firewalls and network segregation, for example, air gap, are not sufficient for preventing cyber-attacks, especially for insiders and systems that support removable media. Another issue exists across the domain of cybersecurity for NPPs is that the information technology experts who monitor the cyber infrastructure and the facility engineers and operators who monitor the processes are largely independent. Lack of cross-disciplinary background and team integration may result in insufficient understanding of the whole scenario when a cyber-attack event happens. Thus, enhancing the cybersecurity of NPPs requires dedicated efforts in not only improving digital safeguards, but also promoting cross-collaboration between the operational technology teams and IT teams. In this talk, Dr. Zhang will present her research efforts focused on the development of a cyber-attack detection system that integrates network analysis with process monitoring to provide early cyber-attack detection. Specifically, she will present her work on the construction of two cybersecurity testbeds, cyber-attack scenario design, and the supervised and unsupervised cyber-attack detection models developed by aggregating cyber data and process data. Dr. Zhang will also share her experiences in international collaboration through the IAEA Coordinated Research Project, Enhancing Computer Security Incident Analysis and Response Planning at Nuclear Facilities.


Dr. Fan Zhang is a Research Assistant Professor in the Nuclear Engineering department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She received her Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering and M.S. in statistics from UTK in December 2019. Dr. Zhang’s research primarily focuses on the cybersecurity of nuclear facilities, online monitoring & fault detection using data analytics methods, and nuclear systems modeling & simulation. She is actively involved with multiple international collaborations on improving nuclear cybersecurity through the IAEA and the DOE Office of International Nuclear Security. Dr. Zhang also holds a M.S. and B.S. in Nuclear Science and Engineering from North China Electric Power University, Beijing.


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