Preparing for all types of attacks

There are intended and unintended hits, or attacks, on control systems and if you believe what one study says, 20% are intentional and 80% unintentional.


ISS SourceThere are intended and unintended hits, or attacks, on control systems and if you believe what one study says, 20% are intentional and 80% unintentional.

“We always hear about the threat of attacks, but there are unintended treats can be just as bad,” said John Cusimano, director of security at exida during his Tuesday talk entitled “The seven things every automation professional should know about control system security” at the 2011 Siemens Automation Summit in Orlando, Fla. “We have to protect from both.”

One of the intended attacks was Stuxnet.

“Stuxnet was an intended attack,” Cusimano said. “There are people that think there will be more of these types of attacks in the future.”

That worm had an impact throughout the world, Cusimano said. “It provided proof of concept. We had been talking about this for decades. Until Stuxnet, however, we didn’t have anything to show. It has really raised awareness at the executive level. At the engineering level, we have known about it. We are starting to see this level of interest at the board level.”

While Stuxnet did raise awareness, Cusimano stayed true to his talk and talked about the seven things end users should be aware of to secure themselves:

  1. Assess existing systems. “You need an understanding of where you are and where you need to be,” he said.
  2. Document Policies and Procedures. “IT and engineering are different, but they have overlap,” he said. “You need to have a set of procedures, but there may need to have an appendix for automation.”
  3. Train Personnel and Contractors. “Make personnel are aware and trained. You need to provide role-based training,” Cusimano said.
  4. Segment the Network. “You need layers of protection or defense in depth,” he said. “We need to have just one layer of protection, but multiple layers of protection. If something gets by one layer then another can pick it up.”
  5. Control Access to the System. “You really need to control who or what has access to the system,” Cusimano said.
  6. Harden the System. You can remove or disable unused communication ports or remove unnecessary applications and services. In addition, Cusimano said, the user should apply patches when and where applicable and consider whitelisting.
  7. Monitor and Maintain. “Once we have a system in place, we can’t rest on our laurels,” he said. “Things change on a daily basis.”

- Edited by Amanda McLeman, Plant Engineering,

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