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Activity title

Securing Unmanned and Autonomous Vehicles for Mission Assurance

Activity Reference

IST-164 (IWA)


Information Systems Technology

Security Classification




Activity type


Start date


End date



Assurance, Autonomous Systems, Cyber, Interoperability, Machine Learning, Mission Assurance, Risk assessment, Security Controls, Trust, Validation Verification


Unmanned vehicles with varying degree of autonomy will play increasingly important roles in NATO operations. Such vehicles and supporting systems have the potential to deliver substantial operational value across an array of missions. The IST-136 meeting held at CMRE, in March 2016, brought together international experts from a number of domains, addressed a wide range of associated topics and recommended the formation of an Exploratory Team. ET-099 was therefore formed to explore a narrower scope relating to the cyber security challenges of autonomous multi-domain vehicles. To understand the nature of the problem, the team performed a preliminary risk assessment on an example scenario where underwater and surface unmanned vehicles were employed to perform a mine-clearing mission. This led to the identification of the risk factors that make securing these vehicles particularly challenging, and consequently to the recommendation of starting a dedicate RTG to continue studying the problem. Examples of the risk factors that make unmanned and autonomous vehicles hard to secure include: - Unmanned vehicles operate in potentially hostile and contested environments - There are no well-tested approaches to establish trust in autonomous systems - Autonomous vehicles rely heavily on sensor data to operate - Classical cyber security controls may not be applicable to unmanned and autonomous vehicles - Limited understanding of machine learning robustness - Wide range of platform and environment types with different requirements and constraints - Lack of policies at the NATO level to address risk assessment for autonomous vehicles - Complex interactions among the cyber, physical and autonomy domains - Limited physical protection


• Systematize the range of cyber security challenges of multi-domain missions conducted by unmanned and autonomous vehicles (given a set of scenarios) taking into account the risk factors listed previously • Propose a preliminary reference architecture or guidelines for cyber security of unmanned and autonomous vehicles that can be extended and refined as more applications and vehicles are defined • Promote the adoption of the recommendations through interaction with relevant bodies such as the Multi-Domain Control Systems (MDCS) STANAG Working Group, NIAG, NATO Office of Security (NOS).


- Cyber security for unmanned and autonomous vehicles - Mission and system decomposition and description - Risk assessment - Security architecture - Validation & Verification - Machine learning - Cyber Defense and cyber resilience - Selected security controls

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