U.S. GAO says control systems at risk of cyber attacks

The U.S. General Accounting Office recently reported that, besides increasing general cyber threats, several factors are contributing to escalated risks of cyber attacks against control systems. These factors include adoption of standardized technologies with known vulnerabilities and increased connectivity of control systems to other systems, according to GAO's report, "


The U.S. General Accounting Office recently reported that, besides increasing general cyber threats, several factors are contributing to escalated risks of cyber attacks against control systems. These factors include adoption of standardized technologies with known vulnerabilities and increased connectivity of control systems to other systems, according to GAO's report and related white paper, "Critical Infrastructure Protection: Challenges and Efforts to Secure Control Systems," released in March 2004.


GAO reports that control systems can be vulnerable to a variety of attacks, and that some examples of these have already occurred. Successful attacks on control systems could have devastating consequences, such as endangering public health and safety. GAO adds that computerized control systems perform vital functions across many of the nation's critical infrastructures. For example, in the natural gas distribution industry, they can monitor and control the pressure and flow of gas through pipelines.


The report states the risk of a cyber-based attack persists because securing control systems poses significant challenges, including limited specialized security technologies and lack of economic justification. However, the government, academia, and private industry already have initiated efforts to strengthen the cyber-security of control systems. The President's National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace establishes a role for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to coordinate with these entities to improve cyber-security of control systems.


While some cooperation is occurring, DHS's coordination of these efforts could accelerate the development and implementation of more secure systems. GAO's report adds that without effective coordination of these efforts, there is a risk of delaying the development and implementation of more secure systems to manage the nation's critical infrastructures. GAO recommends that the secretary of the DHS develop and implement a strategy for coordinating with the private sector and other government agencies to improve control system security, including an approach for coordinating the various ongoing efforts to secure control systems. DHS has concurred with GAO's recommendation.


Avoiding 'plug and plague'

More open systems have created "plug and plague concerns," says Stephen Thomas, associate project engineer for Olin Chlor Alkali Products (McIntosh, AL). "It's so easy to connect to open systems, problems may not be detected until after the fact, and the problems can affect the entire network."


Don Richardson, Microsoft director of manufacturing solutions, suggested that control systems may be more vulnerable than once thought because of a number of misconceptions, including that security is an IT problem and that a firewall is all that's needed for protection. Thomas and Richardson add there's a need for better discipline by individuals and companies, as well as more proactive policies, procedures, and technologies to counter attacks.




For more of Thomas and Richardson's views on security, presented April 21 at the ABB Automation World conference in Atlanta, see Control Engineering Online for April 23, 2004.


For more information or to read the latest version of the GAO report, visit Control Engineering 's new subscriber-based Resource Center online at www.controleng.com or visit www.gao.gov .


No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Hannover Messe 2016: Taking hold of the future - Partner Country status spotlights U.S. manufacturing; Honoring manufacturing excellence: The 2015 Product of the Year Winners
Inside IIoT: How technology, strategy can improve your operation; Dry media or web scrubber?; Six steps to design a PM program
World-class manufacturing: A recipe for success: Finding the right mix for a salad dressing line; 2015 Salary Survey: Manufacturing slump dims enthusiasm
Getting to the bottom of subsea repairs: Older pipelines need more attention, and operators need a repair strategy; OTC preview; Offshore production difficult - and crucial
Digital oilfields: Integrated HMI/SCADA systems enable smarter data acquisition; Real-world impact of simulation; Electric actuator technology prospers in production fields
Special report: U.S. natural gas; LNG transport technologies evolve to meet market demand; Understanding new methane regulations; Predictive maintenance for gas pipeline compressors
Warehouse winter comfort: The HTHV solution; Cooling with natural gas; Plastics industry booming
Managing automation upgrades, retrofits; Making technical, business sense; Ensuring network cyber security
Designing generator systems; Using online commissioning tools; Selective coordination best practices

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role that compressed air plays in manufacturing plants.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
click me