ECFI: Asynchronous Control Flow Integrity for Programmable Logic Controllers

Ali Abbasi, Thorsten Holz, Emmanuele Zambon, Sandro Etalle

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

    32 Citations (Scopus)
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    Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) are a family of embedded devices that are being used to control physical processes in critical infrastructures. Similar to other embedded devices, PLCs are vulnerable to memory corruption and control-flow hijacking attacks. Because PLCs are being used for critical control applications, compromised PLCs constitute a significant security and safety risk.

    In this paper, we introduce a novel, PLC-compatible control-flow integrity (CFI) mechanism named ECFI to protect such devices from control-flow hijacking attacks. Our CFI approach is the first system for real-time PLCs and considers the runtime operation of the PLC as the highest priority. We implemented a prototype of ECFI and tested it in a real-world industrial PLC against different kinds of attacks. Our performance evaluation demonstrates that ECFI is an efficient, non-intrusive CFI solution that does not impose notable performance overhead and maintains the timeliness of PLC runtime operations, a critical property for this kind of embedded systems.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationACSAC 2017
    Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the 33rd Annual Computer Security Applications Conference, Orlando, FL, USA, December 4-8, 2017
    PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
    ISBN (Print)978-1-4503-5345-8
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2017
    Event33nd Annual Computer Security Applications Conference 2017 - Orlando, United States
    Duration: 4 Dec 20178 Dec 2017
    Conference number: 33


    Conference33nd Annual Computer Security Applications Conference 2017
    Abbreviated titleACSAC 2017
    Country/TerritoryUnited States
    Internet address


    • PLC
    • Real-Time
    • Industrial control systems
    • Embedded system
    • Cyber Security


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