Cyber Innovation Series 2022/23: DRS’OSA

Posted on: 16/02/2023

The next finalist in our Cyber Innovation Series is DRS’OSA. This ontology-based security automation for digital railway systems is aiming to deliver cyber-secure railways and safer journeys for all.

The team behind DRS’OSA will be attending our sixth annual CyberASAP Demo Day on 22 February, where they’ll join our 14 other finalists in presenting their pitch and demonstrating their Proof of Concept.

Register here.



The digitisation of rail systems is an exciting step forward for the industry, allowing for improved capacity, traffic management, reliability and energy efficiency. However, it brings with it an increased risk of cyber attacks and problems for operators and passengers alike.

There is much evidence that railway systems are facing threats from cyber attacks, although we haven’t yet seen a cyber attack on train control systems. Researchers in this area have identified threats and need to come up with a solution before the digitisation of our rail systems is complete. Indeed, Industry 4.0 demands that such innovation of ‘security by design’ takes place in order to protect new systems from potential threats.

Existing security research solutions include hardware security, model-based security, and offline security learning systems. However, we currently lack a comprehensive security solution with humans involved in the operation cycle, as required by Industry 5.0.

Railway systems are complex cyber-physical systems, and trains use the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) network to communicate with the railway operation centre and interlocking systems. As such, a real-time security monitoring and management system is required, one that considers the whole ecosystem and doesn’t simply offer a hardware-based solution or a pure detection algorithm.

It was from this need that DRS’OSA was born. The team behind this innovation sought to create a holistic security solution to ensure a cyber-resilient railway system. By looking at not just hardware but also software and AI, they came up with a solution that could offer on-board detection as well as real-time incident management, helping to reduce the risk or damage of a cyber attack, and improve the reputation of railway services.

DRS’OSA offers multi-channel monitoring and an adaptive anomaly detection system. It delivers fast response and fast recovery by linking with the digital twin of the railway operation centre. In response to the requirement, the team also put humans in the operation cycle, creating a socio-technical ontology to provide the bridge between cyberattack information and cyber incident management.


Meet the DRS’OSA team

DRS’OSA is the brainchild of Dr Hongmei ‘Mary’ He, Professor in Future Robotics Engineering and Transport Systems at the University of Salford. With eight years of experience in cyber security, as well as expertise in AI, trustworthy autonomous systems, edge intelligence and ontology, Dr He identified a need in the railway sector and set out to find a solution.

The project has also been supported by a number of other academics and experts in the field including:

  • Jeremy Watson – Experience in IoT, Cyber Security and Safety, Edge Systems, Director of PETRAS
  • Prof Eerke Boiten – Experience in Cyber Security, Privacy, Cyber Intelligence Sharing
  • Dr Uchenna Ani – Experience in Cyber Security, Human Factors, Industry Cyber Security

The team are now looking for investment to help develop their Proof of Concept into a minimum viable product (MVP), which will require engineers to help develop this complex system. They are currently working with East West Rail who are keen to integrate the system into their innovative architecture, but the team also have long-term plans to customise the system and apply it to other industries including the energy sector.


Meet them at our Demo Day

Join us on Wednesday 22 February 2023 and be among the first to preview the team’s innovation, alongside a whole host of exciting cyber products and services from leading UK academic teams. Hear their pitches and learn more about each project in this unique showcase of ready-to-commercialise cyber innovations. Register here.


About CyberASAP

CyberASAP (Cyber Security Academic Startup Accelerator Programme) is the only pre-seed accelerator programme in the cyber ecosystem which provides expertise, knowledge and support to convert academic research into commercial products and services.

CyberASAP is funded by the UK Government Department for Science, Innovation & Technology (DSIT) and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK and Innovate UK KTN.

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