Check that thumb drive at the door? Seriously?

Where is the line between security efforts that are symbolic, and those that have a real purpose?

07/22/2011


Dear Control Engineering: I was reading the article about giving your plant a cyber health checkup. The authors say that we should keep an eye on plant visitors. Here’s the quote: “That can include having rules that require visitors to leave USB drives with security guards prior to entering the facility, for example. A strict, comprehensive policy will help outsiders understand the seriousness of a plant’s cyber security culture.” I can understand the idea of not plugging in a laptop, but is the idea of checking thumb drives at the door really necessary, or merely symbolic?

Such a policy is not merely symbolic. Once an individual is in a facility and can reach computers that are on a network, it can be much easier to cause mischief than it is from the outside. Many systems assume, at least to some extent, that if you’re in the building, you are probably friendly. There may also be certain parts of the network that cannot be reached from outside, but can be from an internal wired connection. If a cyber crook sees that an individual has walked away from his or her terminal that is logged into the network, it is an open invitation. That’s like parking your car unlocked with the keys in it and the engine running.

A USB thumb-drive can be programmed with all sorts of scary things, and if it can be put into an open port on the network, it can cause no end of trouble. Just to make that point more clearly, I contacted cyber security instructor Matt Luallen to explain some of the things that are possible. He says:

"USB flash drives may serve more functions than you think. Combine Arduino with a Teensy++ hardware device and now you have USB hardware that can emulate typically trusted devices like a mouse, a keyboard, and furthermore, a storage device. Common operating system security precautions include disabling autorun functionality for external storage mediums, but the Teensy++ hardware can emulate a keyboard thereby bypass this common control. Next, if you are operating in an environment with Windows 7, it natively includes a tool called Powershell. Add a little Arduino and Powershell scripting and now there is access to the host with the credentials of the logged-in user. This script could create an outbound connection to a metasploit shell, an internal HMI modification, or an OPC or PLC login and modification with default credentials. The resulting opportunities are left up to the mind of the attacker as the typical cyber and physical security walls have been evaded, and the only security controls left are represented with the soft-gooey middle of the 'M&M model,' a hard outer shell and soft and gooey in the middle. For more information about this type of attack and others with their associated mitigating controls, check out CYBATI's two day workshop on Critical Infrastructure Control System Cybersecurity at cybati.org."

Convinced?

This is why physical and cyber security have to operate hand in hand. The shed out at the pumping station with the RTU should be kept locked, because if a determined hacker wants to break into the network, that’s a prime path.

While symbolism in safety and security are important to keep people thinking the right way, don’t simply assume that is the only element operating.

Watch a video with Matt Luallen.

Peter Welander, pwelander@cfemedia.com



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.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Pipe fabrication and IIoT; 2017 Product of the Year finalists
The future of electrical safety; Four keys to RPM success; Picking the right weld fume option
A new approach to the Skills Gap; Community colleges may hold the key for manufacturing; 2017 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Control room technology innovation; Practical approaches to corrosion protection; Pipeline regulator revises quality programs
The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Power system design for high-performance buildings; mitigating arc flash hazards
VFDs improving motion control applications; Powering automation and IIoT wirelessly; Connecting the dots
Natural gas engines; New applications for fuel cells; Large engines become more efficient; Extending boiler life

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.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
This digital report explains how plant engineers and subject matter experts (SME) need support for time series data and its many challenges.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me