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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 degrees 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. NATO recognizes this by supporting a number of projects and programs, including the Multi-Domain Control System (MDCS) STANAG initiative. The recent 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 challenges, the team considered a scenario, including an example of a model-based risk assessment framework. In doing this, the team realized that there is a need for a more fundamental analysis of the security challenges before the process of risk assessment can be standardized and become more automated. A preliminary, broad, multi-faceted list of challenges was produced which now forms the basis of this RTG. Examples of security challenges include: - difficulty of establishing trust of autonomous systems, - assuring integrity of sensor data, - limited range of security controls, - limited understanding of machine learning robustness, - achieving autonomous cyber defence, - secure data links in communications-limited environments (e.g., underwater, urban scenarios) - lack of policies at the NATO level to address risk assessment for autonomous vehicles


• Consider the range of cyber security challenges of multi-domain missions conducted by unmanned and autonomous vehicles (given a set of scenarios) taking into account topics identified below, such as interoperability, trust, etc. • Assess the difficulty of solving of security challenges and emerging technologies (e.g., block chain techniques or quantum cryptography), specifically for autonomous vehicles • 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). Review NOS policies for their suitability for autonomous vehicles and recommend updates


- Cyber (security) for autonomous vehicles - Scenario definition - Mission description - Interoperability and trust between autonomous systems - Risk assessment - Validation & Verification - Machine learning - Cyber Defense and cyber resilience - Selected security controls - Autonomous vehicle life cycle

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