Cyber security for control systems: More tips, warnings from INL

Control systems are threatened by cyber security intrusion. But there’s good news and bad news, said Rob Hoffman, manager communication & cyber security resources, Idaho National Labs.


Houston, TX – Control systems are threatened by cyber security intrusion. But there’s good news and bad news, said Rob Hoffman, manager communication & cyber security resources,

Idaho National Labs (INL)

at the Yokogawa Users Conference on April 9.
Bad news first :
-Control systems are no longer safe with nested obscurity security;
-The last several hacker conferences have had multiple sessions on control system intrusions;
-Groups of hackers, patterned by their signatures of intrusions, have disappeared for a time, then “re-appeared” later working for subversive governments;
-Beyond the availability of online hacking tools and tips, public Internet auctions now regularly sell malicious code with explicit instructions about the damage it can do to what; and
-In a security test, a 20,000 lb generator was destroyed by sending a few packets over the Internet.

Several non-U.S. municipalities faced extortion threats

, according the U.S. CIA, not known for releasing such information.
Hoffman says he’s even had a call from a hacker who intruded into a control system, realized where he was, and called to try to get out without doing any damage (and avoid prosecution).
What’s the good news ? There's no system that Hoffman’s team (now 32, up from 8) hasn't successfully hacked. In more than four years of companies offering up control systems for evaluation, INL hasof resources (a lot of time and money) to intrude, Hoffman says; ABB engineers there are still working at it. Also, in general, automation vendors are good in verifying and rolling out security patches, aware that 24/7 operation is important, Hoffman says. More than 25 now participate on regular calls to collaborate. Academia is helping.
Need more help? Hoffman offers additional advice on improving control system security. The challenge for control systems, which can operate 20 years or more, differs from IT-based systems that last three to five years.
Form partnerships with all stakeholders . It is the mission of the Control Systems Security Center (CSSP) to help U.S. and international organizations create a culture of security and show how that provides value. CSSP focuses across sectors; creates thought leadership; reduces risk through analysis, technology assessment, and situational awareness; and educates about how to measure progress against objectives. Federal departments meet weekly to ensure coordinated efforts, such as helping with a culture of reliability, security and resilience; enhancing collaboration; improving info sharing; developing products that enable asset owners to mitigate consequences in a secure and cost effective manner; and support operational risk management.
Report anything suspicious in control systems by filling out and sending in the form included with

Control Systems Cyber Security Self Assessment Tool

Use available resources , including recommendations for standards developers, bulletins, costs, pocket guide, vulnerability notices, recommended practices, control system security awareness and mitigation training classes, online and in person. An information sharing site has a vendor patch area.
Get a technology assessment , which can help vendors assess objectives, identify vulnerabilities, mitigate risk in partnership with vendors, deliver cyber security solutions to end users through patches and products. INL provides actual environments to run attacks against equipment.
Get funding to fix vulnerabilities through scenario development and advance vulnerability discovery. Identify cyber attacks capable of achieving physical damage with specific tactics, techniques, and procedures to achieve maximum consequences.
Measure progress with metrics , including rogue change days, component test count, minimum password strength, reach-ability count, vulnerability exposure, worst case loss, detection mechanism count, and restoration time.
Learn from others . Boeing, in its 777 automated production facility, which relies heavily on wireless technologies, used shielding and signal attenuation to ensure that signals do not exceed 10 yards beyond the building (where physical security offers protection).

Control Engineering offers cyber security help


Quantifying Cyber Security Risk : Basic risk analysis techniques can help you understand the cyber threats to industrial control systems and SCADA systems overseeing electric utility distribution. Plan a defensive strategy.

ISA99 update: Cyber security standard and technologies report addresses cyber security for industrial automation and control systems (IACS).

Security resource: Control System Cyber Security Self Assessment Tool (CS2SAT): The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Idaho National Labs (INL) have produced some outstanding cyber security training tools.

Cyber podcasts offer additional information including: : Byres Security talks to Peter Welander about the challenges of creating cyber security defense in depth in an industrial control environment.

–  Mark T. Hoske , editor in chief
Control Engineering News Desk
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