Why you need to prevent cyber attacks on your automated plants and service infrastructure!

Cyber attacks, by nature, are potentially expensive and create too much of a mess to be cleaned up. You do not get to figure out the extent to which data was compromised straight away. It is only when you perform your yearly diagnosis that you fully understand the scope of the damage. Analysis of the attack, the understanding of what the attackers wanted, assessing the damage on the network besides other post-attack procedures are necessary, costly and messy consequences of a breach. Moreover, they are more than just being costly affairs; they involve national security.

Keeping the SCADA systems safe from security threats is not just about peace of mind. Since most of these systems are responsible for controlling critical industrial automation networks, if they are disrupted, then, essential services such as power and water will not be able to be supplied. Also, areas such as oil and gas refineries can face serious safety issues because of network intrusions.

The attacks on the SCADA systems are increasing, as the last decade has witnessed tremendously. Experts are also of the opinion that a number of infiltrated systems are yet to be detected. Cyber breaches often infect systems silently. The hackers monitor traffic, observe ongoing activities and usually take months before taking any action. This gives them the perfect time for inflicting the most damage.

Common SCADA System Vulnerabilities and Threats

Present day SCADA systems are vulnerable to cyber attacks because of lack of proper operational knowledge and non-compliance with updates.

Let us look at some of the leading causes of breaches in the SCADA systems:

a. Lack of monitoring

Without an active network monitoring, it is impossible to detect suspicious behaviour and identifying potential threats, not to mention, reacting to cyber attacks.

b. Lack of proper knowledge of devices

As most of the SCADA systems have been developed over time, it is very likely for technology mix and match to occur. The personnel knowledge about devices is often left incomplete and outdated, leaving the systems vulnerable and attack prone.

c. Detecting Abnormalities in Traffic

Personnel in charge of SCADA systems need to be aware of the type of traffic which is travelling in the SCADA networks, only then can informed decisions be made against potential threats. Advanced data analysis can help managers to have a bigger picture of data gathered from traffic monitoring, turning this information into actionable intelligence.

d. Loopholes in Authentication

Authentication solutions aim at keeping notorious elements at bay from accessing the SCADA systems. However, these can be compromised with unsafe practices such as sharing of usernames, poor passwords and weak authentication mechanisms.

One of the ways to protect your SCADA systems is to schedule periodic auditing against protection from Cyber attacks.

Audits for protecting infrastructure from network attacks

It is highly recommended to go for a NERC CIP compliance audit.

These audits entail:

a. Documentation of critical assets

b. Creation of definitions of security protocols and ensuring their proper follow up

c. Development of efficient impact assessment methods

d. Addition of accountability, reliability and proper communication between all layers

e. Providing employee security, training and awareness.

Establishing these audits along with scheduling regular software maintenance and updates will help in making systems immune to cyber threats.


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