Security: To defend your control system perimeter, find it first

Is your control system integrated with IT networks more than you realize? Don't find out the hard way.

07/02/2008


One common security technique is putting firewalls at the perimeter of a control system. This is fine if you can figure out where the perimeter is. As one poor IT technician at a nuclear power plant discovered, the fence may not be where you think it is.

The fact that this incident occurred at the Hatch nuclear power plant probably makes it more interesting, but maybe the same thing could happen at your company. Here’s the story: Last March, a technician was installing a software update on a computer that was considered part of the plant’s business network. Finishing the installation involved a reboot, as is typical. The technician knew that the updated computer was connected to the primary control system, but he didn’t realize how fully integrated the two networks were. When the business computer rebooted, alarms sounded and the reactor went into emergency shutdown. Oops.

What no one seemed to realize was that the control system and this business system computer were configured to synchronize data. The control system saw the interruption of data as a sudden loss of water in the cooling system. Automated safety systems did what they were supposed to do and triggered an emergency shutdown. ( Read a more detailed account of the incident .) The control software could have been written to avoid that problem (and probably has been rewritten by now), but that’s not really the issue. The lesson is that systems like this in a plant may be more integrated than you realize, and the line between control system and business system can be blurry.

If you are basing your security architecture on trying to protect the perimeter of your control system, this situation should remind you that drawing the boundary line precisely can be tricky. The frontier is anywhere somebody can get in. That can include points where the business system interconnects, assuming you can find them all. Hopefully you won’t do it the hard way like the poor guy at Hatch. You might also find something like a dial-up modem that was added a few years ago to provide access for a contractor. You might have forgotten that it’s even there, but a hacker scanning all the phone numbers at your company might just find it. Keep an eye on your fences, and watch those reboots.

—Peter Welander, process industries editor, PWelander@cfemedia.com ,
Process & Advanced Control Monthly
Register here and scroll down to select your choice of free eNewsletters .





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...
2016 Product of the Year; Diagnose bearing failures; Asset performance management; Testing dust collector performance measures
Safety for 18 years, warehouse maintenance tips, Ethernet and the IIoT, GAMS 2016 recap
2016 Engineering Leaders Under 40; Future vision: Where is manufacturing headed?; Electrical distribution, redefined
SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
Safety at every angle, Big Data's impact on operations, bridging the skills gap
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
Applying network redundancy; Overcoming loop tuning challenges; PID control and networks
Driving motor efficiency; Preventing arc flash in mission critical facilities; Integrating alternative power and existing electrical systems
Package boilers; Natural gas infrared heating; Thermal treasure; Standby generation; Natural gas supports green efforts

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 of plant safety and offers advice on best practices.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me