SCADA Security

A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding the SCADA Security

SCADA systems are parts of a network comprising of applications and computers which perform key functions in providing commodities and other essential services such as natural gas, electricity, clean and recycled water and transportation. These utilities are crucial parts of any nation’s infrastructure. However, just like all networks, the SCADA systems are also vulnerable to threat from cyber criminals as they require Internet connectivity to perform optimally.

By their very nature, SCADA networks provide collection and analysis of control and data of equipment and paraphernalia such as valves and pipelines from remote locations with great efficiency. However, transmitting this data across also possesses several security threats. The initial SCADA systems were designed to maximize the functionality with minimal attention to security. Because of this, while the performance, flexibility and reliability of Distributed SCADA networks is robust, their security system often has loopholes. This makes them potentially vulnerable to different cyber attacks such as disruption of services., manipulation of operational information and process redirection that can raise security concerns if not addressed timely.

SCADA Security Standards

US President George W Bush designed President’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Board in 2001 for coordinating with all federal activities that were related to protecting information systems and networks which supported critical infrastructures.

The Department of Energy plays a crucial role in protecting the vital energy infrastructure. To optimize this responsibility, Secretary of Office of Energy of Independent Oversight and Performance Assurance has developed a number of assessments for organizations with SCADA networks. This will develop a deeper understanding of these systems and will also solidify the steps necessary for securing these networks.

SCADA Security and Cyber Warfare

 

scada security

Recent events such as alleged attempts to damage the water supply in Illinois have presented to the world that it is possible to introduce terrorist threats on remote sites as well. This has led to an increased awareness about cyber warfare as well as the need for implementing proper countermeasures for mitigating SCADA security risks.

Common SCADA Network Security Threats

1) Affecting screens

Attackers may gain access and alter the information that is sent to the control center. The hackers may compromise the servers on the network which may lead to misinformation being consumed by the operators.

2) Taking control of the Command Centre

In case the command center is not secured with firewalls, security patches and intrusion prevention, then an intruder may gain complete control over the network. In such a scenario, they will be able to control the whole network remotely.

3) Disruption of processes

A SCADA system that is managing real-time operations can be breached to create operation malfunctions. The intruder can utilize the network vulnerabilities for sending power off and shut down signals to the equipment. This can also cause a denial of service to a number of processes.

SCADA Security and Best Practices

Most of the early versions of SCADA have virtually no defense mechanisms. These systems are installed without passing the installation phase . As a result, they become accessible for remote manhandling by notorious elements raising security concerns. However, in light of the recent events, certain guidelines have been laid down everywhere for identifying the best SCADA practices.

In accordance with the Government Policies, there are a number of steps which have been defined for ensuring proper security of distributed SCADA networks.

These include:

  1. Identify all the connections to the SCADA networks
  2. Disconnect all the connections that are unnecessary from the SCADA networks
  3. Evaluation and strengthening of the security of remaining network connections
  4. Removing and disabling unused services in the network
  5. Removal of dependency on proprietary protocols for system protection
  6. Implementation of security features made available by system and device vendors
  7. Establishing control over media which can be used as backdoor inside the SCADA networks
  8. Implementation of internal and external intrusion monitoring systems and deploying 24-hour incident detection
  9. Technical audits of the SCADA networks and other networks connected to it for potential security concerns
  10. Conducting security surveys and assessing all the remote sites which are connected to the SCADA network for security evaluation

SCADA Security Certification

Skilled professionals are vital to operate distributed SCADA networks. Their SCADA security certification ensures proficiency beyond book curriculum and quick approach to problem solving.

Some of the benefits of SCADA certification include:

  • Theoretical knowledge of information security and its practical applications
  • Commitment to cyber security risk assessment
  • Gives hands-on skills required for the job position
  • Access to a network of like-minded certified professionals

SCADA Security Training

The SCADA security training courses provide professionals with a measure of competence and achievement. These courses are ideal for the industrial network managers and administrators and also for the IT professionals and managers.

The SCADA certification courses focus on:

  • Policy development for SCADA Security
  • Security standards and best practices
  • Protocol security issues
  • Access Control
  • User authorization and authentication
  • Detection of cyber attacks on the SCADA networks
  • Security of field communications
  • Assessment of vulnerabilities

SCADA Security Jobs

A SCADA security personnel is responsible for a managing the safety and security of the SCADA network as well as ensuring that all the processes are run at optimum levels. SCADA security job professionals are required to provide professional Control System Engineering and Security countermeasures associated with the niche domain where the SCADA systems are installed.

Some of the key responsibilities of the SCADA security engineer include:

  1. Design, implement, maintain as well as document the essential control systems with proper safety measures.
  2. Providing timely and appropriate technical advice over potential issues and alarms raised due to vulnerabilities
  3. Carrying out the duties of maintaining system security in accordance with the safety principles, strategies and corporate ethics.
  4. Thorough knowledge of control systems and SCADA used in the industry
  5. Knowledge of communication techniques, protocols and structured programming.
  6. Prior knowledge of networking equipment and operating systems including Microsoft Windows and Linux.