Louisiana State Police Partners with LSU to Solve Challenges in Industrial Cyber

October 09, 2023

Joining the Fight to Protect Industry

Industrial Control Systems, or ICS, are dedicated computer systems used to run continuous operations in all industrial and manufacturing facilities, including refineries, chemical and petrochemical plants, power and energy systems, and water treatment operations. Because of their critical role and long life, ICS are increasingly frequent targets for cyberattacks ranging from industrial espionage to attacks for financial gain, such as ransomware, as well as sabotage and terrorism.

To better understand vulnerabilities and ultimately secure ICS networks across the state’s industrial sectors, Louisiana State Police has partnered with LSU to advance industrial cyber research and talent development.

“ICS don’t have the same security standards as regular IT,” said LSU graduate student Nathalia Soares. “They need to be available all the time, and plants can’t stop production to update their systems. Some aren’t updated for decades, which makes them more vulnerable to attack. This is kind of awkward, from a perspective of cyber, but very interesting and very important.”

The partnership between Louisiana State Police and LSU is an extension of FIREStarter, a collaborative effort funded by the Louisiana Board of Regents and supported by industrial partners such as Radiance Technologies and BASF to train a new generation of cyber talent.

Devin King with Louisiana State Police’s Cyber Crime Unit and LSU graduate student Nathalia Soares.

Devin King with Louisiana State Police’s Cyber Crime Unit and LSU graduate student Nathalia Soares.

– Elsa Hahne/LSU

“Industrial control systems, or ICS, are the backbone for our chemical plants, our energy grid, our oil and gas—all of that is run off of ICS. The last thing we would ever want is for an attack on an ICS network to be successful as it could cause horrific injuries, loss of life and very real and detrimental effects. So, the more research we can do with LSU, the better. Together, we’ll figure out how to better protect these systems.”

Devin King, investigative specialist with the Louisiana State Police Cyber Crime Unit