The software that wasn’t there

Do you need to be concerned about security issues with programs that you don’t use? Yes.

10/07/2011


Dear Control Engineering:

I found an interesting comment in an article about cyber security fixes for SCADA systems. The article says: “AzeoTech eliminated the vulnerable feature in the next version (Version 5.86). The company did not document the feature, so AzeoTech does not believe any of their customers were using it. Therefore, its removal should not adversely affect any DAQFactory users.” Do I need to be concerned about vulnerabilities in software that I don’t use?

Yes. You need to be concerned about any vulnerability in your system, even if it is in an application you don’t use. If it’s there, the vulnerability can probably be exploited.

That’s why cyber security experts recommend two important things:

• Know all the software that is on your systems, and
• Don’t have any software that you don’t need.

Somewhere you need to have a list that is constantly updated to reflect the most recent version of every program running on your networks. If you don’t have such a list, start compiling it. Once you have the list, make sure there is nothing there that isn’t necessary. If you find a program that you didn’t realize was there, was installed some time ago for a temporary purpose, or that nobody uses, get rid of it. Don’t just disable it, get rid of it. Otherwise, a cyber criminal may find a weak program and exploit a vulnerability, and when the attack hits, you will have no idea what happened. Programs that you don’t think about don’t get patched, so old weaknesses can be there until they’re discovered by a bad guy.

Update the list every time you get an update for any program, no matter how trivial. Your ability to resist an attack may depend on one little patch, and you need to know whether it’s been implemented or not.

Peter Welander, pwelander(at)cfemedia.com

 

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