Secure OPC Keeps Attackers at Bay

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 @ 08:04 PM gHale

Automation systems remain vulnerable and exposed. Past experiences like Stuxnet and last month’s revelations about SCADA system vulnerabilities show networks are sitting ducks to any aggressive and sophisticated attack.

That all comes on the heels of decades of living in an environment where attacks happened to other companies in other industries. Not manufacturing. Those days are over.

The use of common-off-the-shelf networking, computer and software technologies increased business agility and reduced costs, but it also hiked the demands to balance the need for accessibility to control system data with the need to safeguard the integrity and usability of mission critical systems, according to a new white paper just released by MatrikonOPC and Byres Security.

In this case, the phrase “less is more” comes to mind as one of the most effective ways to manage the conflict between the demands of efficient access and the demands of effective security is to minimize the interfaces and protocols operating between the control system and external networks.

Having one approved connectivity solution serving multiple corporate requirements not only reduces administration costs, but also reduces the opportunities open to the attacker. This is known as “reducing the attack surface” of a system, according to the white paper.

That is where OPC comes in. OPC is the most widely used standard that addresses the demands of universal data access in the industrial automation environment.

By layering defenses that are OPC-aware, high security solutions can meet the security and access expectations of a company, all without administrative overload on the network or controls team. The result is a standards-based solution proven across numerous control systems.

The new white paper entitled “Effective OPC Security for Control Systems,” written by Eric Byres, chief technology officer at Byres Security Inc. and Darek Kominek, Manager, OPC Marketing, MatrikonOPC, talks about the security advantages of limiting network interfaces and protocols, and recommends using OPC as a communications standard because of its ease of use and its widespread deployment.

The white paper goes on to discuss how different defensive layers can provide high security when using OPC technology.

Click here for a complete white paper on OPC security.