SCADA Security Risks and Concerns

With the advent of IT technology and the internet, the industrial control systems have undergone a massive transformation. SCADA systems, as well as other DCS systems, are now accessible over the internet via mobile, desktop PC, and laptops. However, the security concerns have increased exponentially as well. With the close coupling of the industrial control environment and IT, the security risks now cascade from the web and the corporate networks into the SCADAs and other Industrial Control Systems.

During their inception, there was no emphasis on laying down security parameters for the SCADA systems. As a result, the systems when compared to the modern day cyber infrastructures, lack proper security measures. Due to this, they are vulnerable to terrorist attacks and hacking attempts.

Poor authentication in the SCADA protocols, irregularly patched controls, lack of SCADA supporting firewalls are some of the key challenges in the industrial automation. This is a major issue in the industry as a security breach in the operational systems and networks would cause a major disruption in the supply of critical infrastructures like oil and gas, electricity, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and water and wastewater treatment.

The modern day approach to SCADA security takes a holistic approach and a better understanding of the ICS and SCADA networks.

Some of the key areas where security can be drastically tightened over the network include:

1. User Authentication
The experts have suggested a layered approach to verify the user identity. This gives way for only the authorized personnel to access the SCADA systems. This bridges the inherent gap in the security aspects.

2. Granular control and visibility
The use of firewalls with the capability to be app aware understands the SCADA protocols such as MODBUS. These can also be selectively used to filter commands and functions, which keeps unfamiliar commands at bay. This increases the security and minimizes the risks.

3. Protection against infiltration and propagation
The modern day SCADA systems are provided with in-depth defense with enterprise network security mechanisms for malware prevention in the network.

4. Secure remote access
With recent instances of hackers gaining control over the remote sites, there have been efforts to enhance the security of the remote controls. With secure remote access facilitated by VPN, SSL, etc., the plant engineers can perform diagnostics and monitoring remotely over the web in a safe and secure manner. Such practices ensure that the communication is encrypted and protected against instances of eavesdropping.

5. Centralized reporting and security management
Vendors today prefer centralized consoles for distributed services. This helps in incident reporting, forensic analysis, and compliance mandate issue regulations.

Security controls and features

One of the key security measures while managing SCADA security includes implementation of all security features suggested by the vendor. These are usually present in the form of product updates and patches. Also, the personnel in charge of the maintenance must be fully aware of the enabled features and their configuration and basic security settings. Performing risk assessments in intervals is also a good idea to identify and eliminate possible threats.

 

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