Vulnerabilities in a SCADA system

Governmental control over the regulatory environment has placed increasing demands on the SCADA systems. With attempts to get inside the SCADA controlled environments in urban infrastructure in the last decade, there is a new focus on data capture and retention, training of personnel, security, documentation, policy and reporting. The vendors and operators are trying to incorporate regulatory and legal issues into the usage and design of SCADA systems. There is a greater emphasis on maintaining compliance. The early versions of SCADA were not built along the lines of fencing off potential security breaches. This made the systems vulnerable to hackers and other notorious elements.

The businesses which utilize SCADA systems must be aware of potential liabilities which can affect the normal functioning of the workflows. The trained personnel are the first line of defense, and they should be ready to recognize security breaches or violation of compliance and regulations.

Another kind of threat which hovers over the present day SCADA systems is the data misinterpretation and data misuse. The SCADA systems are often used as critical pillars in the urban infrastructural settings and contain confidential information. This can put national security in jeopardy.

Some of the common networks threats in the SCADA systems

a. Screens getting affected

Hackers can gain access to a SCADA network and can alter information which is monitored by the control centre. The servers can be compromised and can lead to the display of misinformation on the screen.

b. Command Centre Control

Command centre is the heart of any SCADA system. This is where data inputs are sent, and the information is sent back. In such a case, a command centre has to be secured with security patches, firewalls and other tools for intrusion prevention. If this is not the case, an intruder can breach the network and control it remotely.

c. Process Disruption

A SCADA system responsible for managing real-time operating procedures can be breached to cause malfunctioning. Hackers can utilize the network vulnerabilities and send shut down signals to the unit which can cause a denial of services. This, in turn, will lead to loss of productivity and finances.

How to overcome vulnerabilities in SCADA systems?

Early SCADA systems had virtually no defense parameters. As a result, they became prone to remote manhandling causing security breaches. However, in the light of recent attacks, the government has issued certain guidelines for identifying the safest SCADA policies and best practices. These must be incorporated carefully in all the equipment, software and hardware manufactured now.

The preventive measures include:

a. Identification of all incoming and outgoing connections to SCADA networks.

b. Disconnecting all the unnecessary connections and unused services from SCADA networks.

c. Evaluation of the remaining connections and their strengthening.

d. Implementing internal and external intrusion monitor systems as well as round the clock incident detector.

e. Periodic technical audits of SCADA networks for security concerns

f. Ensuring that all security personnel are properly certified, trained and well-versed with the SCADA system and equipment in the plants.


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