Posts Tagged ‘cyber security’

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 @ 01:05 PM gHale

Insurance issues related to cyber security claims is generating more interest around the industry these days and if manufacturers do not follow all their procedures and policies strictly, they could find themselves out in the cold when it comes to collecting on any claim.

While this report from the Privacy and Security Matters web site relates to the health industry, it could very well fall in the manufacturing arena:

“Cyber security, and cyber insurance, have dominated the industry headlines for several years now, but even as companies, brokers and insurers work to develop these products, there has been a dearth of case law interpreting key provisions. This is beginning to change as disputes arise and make through way through the judicial system.

RELATED STORIES
Breach: Subsea Cable Operator’s IT Network
Oil Industry Under Attack
Financial Institution Attacks Uncovered
Warding Off EU’s Sophisticated Attacks

“One such suit came last week when (insurance giant) CNA filed a declaratory judgment action against its insured Cottage Health System, seeking reimbursement of both defense costs and a $4.125 million settlement it had paid out on a claim made under Cottage’s cyber policy. In January 2014, Cottage was sued in a class action in California state court, where it was alleged that the records of more than 30,000 of Cottage’s patients had been disclosed to the public via the Internet. Cottage allegedly stored such records on an Internet-accessible system but failed to install encryption or use other safeguards. The California court granted approval of the $4.125 million settlement fund in December 2014. CNA, which had reserved rights, filed this action.

“In the action, CNA invokes the exclusion for “failure to follow minimum required practices” which precludes coverage if the insured does not “continuously implement the procedures and risk controls identified in the Insured’s application for this Insurance.” In its application Cottage had indicated that it regularly re-assessed its exposure to information security and privacy threats, among other, more specific, data-protection procedures. CNA asserts that this representation in the application was false.

“Insureds and insurers in the cyber space would do well to watch this matter unfold. The exclusion invoked, and the application questions it relies on, are broadly worded and may leave room for strong arguments on both sides. Regardless of the outcome, we can be sure that this is only the beginning of judicial interpretation of the key terms of cyber-related policies. Interested readers can also review one of the first cyber-related decisions in the country, which came out of the District Court of Utah last week.”

Wednesday, May 13, 2015 @ 05:05 PM gHale

By Gregory Hale
Cyber security issues continue to grow throughout the manufacturing automation sector and that is becoming clearer with new players trying to capitalize on the latest buzzwords to garner a foothold, but sometimes the answer to a problem has been in front of you all along.

At least that is what PAS believes as the Houston-based asset reliability provider today launched a new cyber security business unit focused on configuration management for vulnerable assets deep within the control domain.

RELATED STORIES
Security Co. Deals for Whitelisting Firm
Belden Deals for Tripwire
BAE Deals for SilverSky
Schneider Deals for InStep Software

“Bad guys know the real place to go to wreck havoc,” said Eddie Habibi, founder and chief executive of PAS. “The real place to go to cause damage and leave a hole in the ground, you go to the DCS.”

Securing the soft underbelly of the manufacturing enterprise is the focus of the new unit.

“Configuration management for security is much like alarm management for safety,” Habibi said. “The industrial cyber security challenge consists of several layers that go over IT and OT. We see configuration management is where the bad guy needs to go to hack into the plant. (We focus on) anything in the proprietary domain of the control system like control configuration, ladder logic, proprietary programs, unique communication protocols. They are not like the open Windows or SAP, they are closed and proprietary.”

The security challenge ratchets up every day and that means users need to know what and where to protect.

“Sophistication has increased. Viruses have been productized and they are learning how to go after control systems,” said David Zahn, chief marketing officer at PAS and general manager of the new cyber security business unit. “The first thing you do to protect your castle is to build a moat around it. But if you don’t know the assets you have, you don’t know what you have to protect.”

Like the moat analogy, as it stands right now, there is strong perimeter protection in the industrial control market with firewalls, intrusion prevention and anti malware, Habibi said. But at the levels 1 and 0 there is no real protection at the core. For any supplier’s DCS, this is where the proprietary areas of control systems reside, he said.

The need to understand and know what to protect is paramount.

“Proprietary systems don’t have IP addresses, so unless you have visibility into those systems, you can’t really have a total solution,” Habibi said. “Users need to baseline what good looks like and understand what the normal running conditions are.”

By understanding what the user has and ensuring a safer and secure environment, that will mean the system will be operating smoother and more efficiently.

“If you focus on safety and security that will improve reliability,” Habibi said. “We have been doing configuration management for a long time, we are adding cyber security capabilities to round it out.”

PAS has worked in the cyber security space for years, so this new unit and the Cyber Integrity release is the next step in their evolution in that area.

PAS implemented a multi-layered security architecture that includes its Cyber Integrity software to protect critical control assets and address compliance requirements. It automates internal and regulatory compliance reporting while reducing associated efforts by up to 90 percent.

Cyber Integrity enables industrial companies to:
• Gather and maintain an accurate inventory of cyber assets
• Establish a cyber security configuration management policy
• Manage change by monitoring for unauthorized updates to cyber asset configurations
• Implement a program for system backup and recovery

Understanding and achieving a secure environment means end users have to start thinking about new ways to approach security because the old ways, while effective at one point, just won’t cut it anymore.

“Cyber awareness is there,” Habibi said, “but the solution approach needs education.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 @ 05:02 PM gHale

By Gregory Hale
Cyber security permeates every part of your company and it is a must that it is on everybody’s agenda.

That was the message that came from Gregory Touhill, Air Force Brig Gen (ret), CISSP and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Operations and Programs at the Department of Homeland Security during his keynote address at the ARC Industry Forum 2015 in Orlando, FL, Tuesday.

As he started off his keynote with a “Happy Patch Tuesday morning,” Touhill continued by saying the industry is just facing more attacks then every before and it doesn’t look like it will let up any time soon.

RELATED STORIES
Chinese Hacking: Ineptitude, Confusion
Solar Companies Under Attack
Security a Differentiator for Users
Security: A Presidential Mandate
Security Spending to Increase in ‘15
Sony: Risk Management in Real Time

“Cyber security is misunderstood by many folks,” he said. “People think it is a technology issue. I say it is a risk management issue for companies and individuals. Risk management is something we all need to look at as we conduct business on a daily basis.”

He likened his job to being the captain of the neighborhood cyber watch for the entire country.

Some of the duties of the neighborhood watch include:
• Share information about bad actors
• Do things about attribution. We anonymize data

“There is a myth out there that we are all knowing and all seeing. That is a myth. We are as transparent as we can be. We are the champion of declassification. We are dedicated to maintain privacy, civil rights and civil liberties.

Touhill said the threat environment continues to grow and there are three types of attackers out there:
• Nation state actors who are very capable adversaries
• People trying to get a competitive advantage and steal your IP to gain as much information as possible
• Hacktivists, who are people that don’t agree with your company’s activities

And then the final threat environment Touhill said was on his personal list but not the official DHS stance and that is people being “just plain stupid. Your IT staff is not stupid, but sometimes they do stupid things. They miss things.”

Security, he said, remains more than just a technology issue; it is also a people and physical issue.

“If we just look at technology security will fail. We also have to look at the physical side.” He mentioned the substation in California that ended up attacked a year or so ago by bad guys who shot out the facility and then took off.

Looking at the cyber security environment, Touhill knows the origin of control systems and why they are vulnerable to attack.

“As we look at industrial control systems, they are not designed with security in mind,” he said. “They are old and security is bolted on. Sometimes we find owners and operators have decided to take the risk and not pay for security. As we go out into the sector, we have to bake in security.”

Touhill said there are five key best practices to think about when it comes to an attack:
• ID what you have
• Protect it
• Detect it
• Respond
• Be able to recover

“I contend there are very few companies doing that,” he said. “They are not doing asset valuation. It is important to protect appropriately. Identify what you have and make sure you protect the proper things in the most appropriate way.”

Vigilance remains a key aspect because as he said, the average time from penetration to detection is 240 days.

“That is unacceptable,” Touhill said. “I want to know when they are coming through the gate and have a response plan in place.”

“Cyber security permeates every part of your company,” he said. “It has to be a part of everybody’s agenda. Each one of us in this room has a responsibility to cyber security. We all have a stake in cyber security.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 @ 11:12 AM gHale

The supply chain ends up being the focal point for too many breaches. Your organization may very well be secure, but how about your partners and suppliers?

Hackers just prey on weaker vendors that have remote access to a larger company’s global IT systems, software and networks.

One case in point is the classic 2013 Target breach where the attackers infiltrated a vulnerable link: A refrigeration system supplier connected to the retailer’s IT system. After that breach, all bets were off.

RELATED STORIES
Deploying IPS to Secure ICS
API: ‘Threat is Bad,’ Solutions Available
Dragonfly: Offense in Depth
Dragonfly: Pharma Industry Targeted

But it doesn’t have to be that way. A counter-measure, via a user-ready online portal, is in development by researchers in the Supply Chain Management Center at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

The portal comes from a new management science called “cyber supply chain risk management.” It combines conventionally-separate disciplines cyber security, enterprise risk management and supply chain management.

Funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the UMD researchers developed the formula, in part, after surveying 200 different-sized companies in various industries.

“We found that, collectively, the cyber supply chain is fragmented and stovepiped, and companies are ill-prepared to sense and respond to risks in real time,” said research professor and center co-director Sandor Boyson, who collaborated on the study and portal design with faculty-colleague/center co-director Thomas Corsi, research fellow Hart Rossman and UMD-Smith CIO Holly Mann. “Just half of our subjects used an executive advisory committee such as a risk board to govern their IT-system risks.”

The findings ended up published in a study entitled “Cyber supply chain risk management: Revolutionizing the strategic control of critical IT systems.”

The researchers leveraged the study into the portal. Companies can log on cost-free, and track developing threats, plus map their IT supply chains and anonymously measure themselves against industry peers and NIST standards.

The benchmarking covers operations and allocating for cyber insurance via separate functions:

A self-evaluation exercise shows a company’s structure for cyber protecting the supply chain. For example, users reply to: “To what degree is your CIO and-or IT shop isolated from, or collaborative with, your supply chain specialists who actually procure the hardware and software for your IT system?”

A special formula measures the risk levels of each company asset. The Common Vulnerability Scoring System — standard for analyzing software systems – can analyze the entire range of assets connected to the cyber supply chain.

Firms can compare corporate disclosures, exposures and vulnerabilities to those of peer companies via an insurance-risk analysis framework provided by The Willis Group. The global insurance broker’s database of aggregated SEC-reported cyber attacks — mandated for public companies — supports this tool.

The portal is scalable. About 150 various-sized companies have completed at least one or more of the functions. Fifteen of those firms completed all three assessments and represent industries including high-tech aerospace manufacturing, telecommunication, real estate, and medical and professional services.

“The portal helps individual organizations understand their risk and how they can better manage it. This bolsters the resilience and security posture of the entire ecosystem of the U.S. economy,” said Jon Boyens, senior advisor for information security in NIST’s computer security division. “While this ecosystem has evolved to provide a set of highly refined, cost-effective, reusable products and services that support the U.S. economy, it has also increased opportunities for adversaries and made it increasingly difficult for organizations to understand their risks.”

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 @ 05:06 PM gHale

By Gregory Hale
Cyber security is really all about risk management, but before you make any kinds of decisions on risk levels you have to know what you have that is at risk. That is just where a risk assessment comes into play.

“There is a relationship between process safety and security,” said John Cusimano, director of ICS cybersecurity solutions at aeSolutions during his talk entitled “Measure Twice, Cut Once! The Value of Conducting Cyber Risk Assessments” Wednesday at the 2014 Siemens Automation Summit in Orlando, FL. “In process safety you have a Process Hazard Analysis (PHA) mandated by OSHA and focused on the process and the equipment in the process. You have to establish a risk assessment and security is no different. In process safety we talk about layers of protection. In normal conditions the system keeps everything in control. If things don’t work the safety instrumented system kicks in and puts the plant in safe state.”

RELATED STORIES
Summit: System Under Attack
Summit: Safety, Security Add to Complexity
Chemical Safety Report Updated
West, TX, Blast First Responders Unprepared

When a user is looking at cyber security, Chris Da Costa, global operations security manager for Air Products and Chemicals Inc. said here are just some of the questions users should ask themselves:
• Is the plant ICS system secure from a cyber perspective?
• If there is an architecture change, will it change the security?
• What kind of firewall do you use?
• Do you have the right firewall rules?
• Has the plant ICS been compromised?
• Do you have the right layers of protection?
• How good is good enough?

“How do you go about answering those questions? To answer those questions you have to do a risk assessment,” Da Costa said. “What threats are in your system?” Are safeguards in place to have risks at an acceptable level?”

A risk assessment, though, is only the beginning. “It is only a portion of the security philosophy. You need to address the people aspect, but the strategy part includes a risk assessment,” Da Costa said.

As a part of the discussion, Cusimano went through a basic assessment and some of the approaches to what he called a cyber PHA.

Some of the deliverables that come out of a risk assessment include:
• ICS security architecture drawings
• Requirement specification
• Vulnerability assessment
• Peer comparison
• Zone and conduit model

Just remember, as Da Costa said, “a risk assessment is so critical in where you want to go.”

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 @ 07:06 PM gHale

By Gregory Hale
There are heavy challenges facing automation professionals in the years to come and cyber security ranks up there at the top.

“There are issues like skills availability, working in remote locations and cyber security,” said Vimal Kapur, the brand new president of Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) during his keynote address Tuesday at the 2014 Honeywell Users Group in San Antonio, TX. “We can’t ignore (cyber security). It is an undesired event and we have to do something about it.”

RELATED STORIES
Ineffective Password Security Practices
Insider Threat Real; Protection Weak
Aware of Info Loss, Data Still Not Secured
Major Update to ICS Security Guide

Kapur, just named president of HPS in May, talked about trends and outlooks he sees in the industry. While newly named as president, Kapur has been with Honeywell for 25 years so he is very aware of industry nuances and trends.

One of the areas he wants to focus on collaborating to ensure global coverage as the world markets emerge from long standing recessions.

“China and the Americas continue to lead in capital spending, but Europe, Middle East and Asia (EMEA) and Asia Pacific are recovering,” he said.

Closer to home in North America, Kapur said natural gas is continuing its growth curve.

“The Americas oil and gas industries continue to dominate capital spending in the region, especially as they migrate to new natural gas sources,” said Kapur. “These changes have been having a profound impact for the past two or three years, and this trend is going to continue for several more years.”

He also pointed out how Honeywell will be able to leverage its capabilities in upstream oil and gas, midstream and downstream with new SCADA, RTU, DCS, safety, advanced and field instrumentation solutions.

Also understanding and designing the systems properly from the beginning is more vital now than it ever has been.

“Large capital expenditure projects are growing more complex, expensive and time-consuming. So instead of us coming in and adding automation and control at the end of a project before start-up, it’s becoming critical for us to execute automation and get it out of the critical path of these projects,” Kapur said.

Planning the project is one thing, but the next step is applying operational integrity and operational excellence.

“Being able to accomplish operational integrity means operating safely. Operational excellence means running a process more efficiently,” he said. “That all includes making people and assets safer, and running processes more reliably.”

One other trend Kapur discussed was cloud computing.

“Cloud computing in automation has huge potential,” Kapur said. “That is something that is happening now; not something that will happen in the future.”

Another trend is universality, Kapur said. By that he said there would be one universal device that handles multiple capabilities. A case in point is a smartphone that can handle computing, video, phone and general communications capabilities.

In the past one device could handle one function, but why not have one device that handles multiple functions.

He then translated that to the Honeywell environment where, in one case, he pointed to Universal IO which transformed from a single device to one that can handle multiple tasks.

Universal I/O and cloud computing capabilities form the core of the company’s Lean Execution of Automation Projects (LEAP) program for taking automation out of the critical path on customers’ projects.

The goal behind LEAP is to cut engineering time

  • No repeat engineering
  • Drives efficiency
  • Lean execution
  •  Standardized processes and tools

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 @ 10:03 AM gHale

Lockheed Martin will acquire manufacturing automation security provider, Industrial Defender.

“Industrial Defender’s expertise in cyber security for critical infrastructure is a natural extension of our commercial cyber security business,” said Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin chairman, president and chief executive. “Their experience in addressing cyber threats to industrial control systems complements our information technology cyber security expertise and strengthens the value we deliver to our customers.”

RELATED STORIES
VMware Deals for Mobile Security Firm
Belden, exida Ink Partnership Pact
French IT Security Firm Acquired
Palo Alto Networks Deals for Morta Security

Foxborough, MA-based Industrial Defender is a privately held company with more than 130 employees in three facilities. The company’s solutions focus on protecting and managing critical infrastructure by reducing cyber risks, easing regulatory compliance and enhancing the efficiency of customers’ control environments.

“Lockheed Martin is a leader in cyber technology and IT security,” said Industrial Defender Chief Executive Brian M. Ahern. “We share a common perspective on the importance of protecting global critical infrastructure from an increasingly hostile threat landscape. The combined capabilities of Industrial Defender and Lockheed Martin will enable us to offer a comprehensive suite of technology and services designed to face modern day threats and business challenges to both enterprise information and operational technologies.”

Industrial Defender focuses on areas such as electric power grids, chemical facilities, and oil and gas pipelines. The company has over 400 companies in its stable of customers.

Bethesda, MD-based Lockheed Martin’s net sales for 2013 were $45.4 billion.

While terms of the deal were not immediately available, the deal should close within 30 days.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014 @ 07:02 PM gHale

By Gregory Hale
Increased levels of connected devices talking to one another, or the Internet of Things (IoT), has an incredible future in the manufacturing automation market, but security remains a key factor on how far and fast it will end up accepted.

The advantages of IoT are countless: Time savings, personnel savings, up to date data on whatever process is working, just to name a few, said Andy Chatha, president of ARC Advisory Group during its ARC Advisory Group 2014 Industry Forum in Orlando, FL, last week. But challenges remain with security top of the list.

RELATED STORIES
Home Automation Devices Open to Attack
Top 10 DDoS Attack Trends
More Malware Working in Cloud
Cyber Attacks Top Threat to Nation

“Cyber security is by far on everybody’s mind; the biggest challenge,” Chatha said.

Along with the security issue comes the lack of technology standardization and the idea of intellectual property ownership. In addition, social and political concerns always jump into the fray along with privacy issues. The complexity will continue to increase as devices connect and that means systems have to be more robust.

“It is going to take a long time to figure the right level of use for this technology,” Chatha said. “It will be interesting to watch how we take the first steps over the next few years.”

But with all the challenges, Chatha thinks this year will be the true beginning of IoT.

“IoT can help you achieve breakthrough performance,” he said.

The main components of industrial IoT include intelligent devices, products, machines, a cloud-based infrastructure for data communications and Big Data, Chatha said. In addition there should be descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics and software to support optimization.

Chatha talked about the benefits of IoT including improved asset performance, reduced asset lifecycle costs, and providing a platform for innovation.

“This is really a revolution in the making and we can lead the revolution,” he said. “This technology gives us the opportunity to bring our plants to a new level.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014 @ 06:01 PM gHale

In a move to expand is security portfolio, Palo Alto Networks dealt for Morta Security, a Silicon Valley-based cyber security company operating since 2012.

Morta Security brings to Palo Alto Networks a team experienced at protecting national infrastructure as well as technologies that enhance the proven detection and prevention capabilities of the Palo Alto Networks WildFire offering, which has over 2,400 users.

RELATED STORIES
Security Firm Accumuli Deals for Eqalis
Security Deal: Akamai Acquires Prolexic
Trustwave Deals for Application Security
HyTrust acquires HighCloud Security

“The Morta team brings additional valuable threat intelligence experience and capabilities to Palo Alto Networks” said Mark McLaughlin, president and chief executive of Palo Alto Networks. “The company’s technology developments align well with our highly integrated, automated and scalable platform approach and their contributions will translate into additive threat detection and prevention benefits for our customers.”

“Palo Alto Networks has a successful history of disrupting the network security landscape with its unique offerings” said Raj Shah, chief executive of Morta Security. “The Morta team is excited to work with the clear leaders in this space and we look forward to joining the company and contributing to future highly innovative technology leadership.”

Financial terms of the deal were not immediately available.

Monday, January 6, 2014 @ 02:01 PM gHale

By Eric D. Knapp
Digital segmentation and separation are fundamental components of basic cyber security, yet they remain difficult to implement in industrial control environments.

This is partly due to an industry-wide focus on perimeter security, a carryover from the days of air gap protection. The thinking is, “if we can recreate the air gap digitally, we will once again be secure.” However, this is fundamentally flawed thinking.

As industrial systems continue to evolve, they become more distributed, and there are more and more legitimate interconnections between internal systems within that distributed environment. The number of valid reasons for interconnectivity requires that more traffic be allowed through the perimeter, and if perimeter access isn’t denied outright, it isn’t really a gap. With that said, a more flexible approach becomes required.

RELATED STORIES
HUG: Understanding Security and Standards
IF-MAP for ICS, SCADA Security
NIST Cybersecurity Framework: What it Means
IG: DHS’ Own Cyber Plan Lacking

Anyone who has wrestled with this conundrum understands the challenge: There are many systems that make up a distributed industrial automation system; within these systems are devices that must communicate with each other, and in some cases with devices in other subsystems. Some of these connections are purely between control devices, some are between operations and business systems, some are diagnostic in nature, but they are all very real and they’re not going away. The trick is getting the right connections in place, so that only necessary information flows occur. The necessary flows can then be secured, and the unnecessary flows prevented outright.

Purdue Reference Model
This is well defined by the Purdue Reference Model for CIM, which is crowded with flow diagrams, (appropriately) resembling neurons. These diagrams map information flow against logical device groups according to zones and conduits—each zone representing a specific group of devices that work together and require interconnectivity, and each conduit representing connectivity between zones. These concepts are ingrained into the industry’s thinking, and are a foundation for industrial cyber security. Perhaps most notably, this model is used within ISA99 and IEC 62443, where it is presented in terms of security levels, zones and conduits. So, if there are defined zones and levels, what’s wrong with existing perimeter security techniques to protect these levels and zones?

Data Flow Diagram from the Purdue Model for CIM.


Primarily it’s an issue of semantics, but the flaw here is the term perimeter implies one big shell around an entire system, within which many devices, residing within many zones, with different security levels and conduits could all go unmanaged. In other words, what we think of as perimeter security doesn’t infer the same level of granular access controls that a properly enforced conduit provides. Of course, perimeter security is able to properly secure zones: Every zone has a logical perimeter that defines it; if all information flows are forced to cross this boundary via appropriate cyber security measures, each conduit is made more secure.

This requires:
1. Many such perimeters need to be created
2. Appropriate security controls need to be put in place around each, so flows can be inspected
3. These controls need to be able to map different policies to different information flows, so each flow or conduit can be adequately protected

Using these criteria, it becomes obvious that, while there are many ways to segment zones and to enforce perimeter security, they are not always feasible or adequate.

Example of zone separation in a typical control system.


For example, traditional segmentation mechanisms that use VLANs and/or routing would either prohibit the amount of zone separation (by using too few devices), or it would become unduly complex (requiring massive network redesign to accommodate VLANs and IP subnetting). Too simple, and the right security isn’t implemented in the right places; too complex, and the risk of misconfiguration can result in less effective security and unintentional vulnerability. The complexity of highly sub-networked or VLAN-separated systems also requires administrative overhead to operations teams, who are already strapped for IT skills and resources. Last, and certainly not least, the ICS vendors may dictate specific designs, with specific layer-2 and layer-3 configurations, making the implementation of new network segmentation contractually impossible. In other words, traditional segmentation is not feasible for deep segmentation of industrial systems.

Routing can enforce the security of information flows, as can VLANs. However, this security is not absolute, and these paths remain susceptible to attack. Generally, the higher up the OSI stack you go, the more difficult the attack will be. VLAN ‘hopping’ is a relatively simple task that renders VLANs inherently insecure; routers are more difficult to circumvent; while application layer controls are hardest to overcome. Therefore, while VLAN and network segmentation can be effective, it is not entirely adequate for use in industrial systems.

Secure Segmentation
The necessity for a secure segmentation of the network is the crux of the issue: Zones and conduits exist because of a need to restrict access to and between systems, in an effort to improve the security and reliability of the overall system(s). If the information flow isn’t secure, the zone is moot. If the logical perimeter doesn’t adequately control access to the devices it contains, the system remains vulnerable.

To deploy an enterprise-class IT security device within a control environment to separate two discrete control zones, would be to pound a square peg into a round hole. It would also be difficult to justify: The device would be costly, cumbersome, and may in many cases disrupt industrial communications (typically due to latency and other performance characteristics that simply aren’t tuned for sensitive industrial networks). There is also, typically, undue complexity to help products differentiate themselves in the highly competitive enterprise security market.

The answer isn’t to develop entirely new tools, but rather to make existing cyber security tools more relevant. To do so, we must first look at the tools that are available and then determine how to make them more appropriate to industrial control systems.

The basic requirement is simple: Limit the network traffic allowed into and out of any given zone. It is a task that could be easily accomplished with a firewall, using bi-directional traffic filters to prune out unwanted traffic on unwanted ports. It is a good idea, and many cases it’s a necessary one — due to industry mandates that require the use of a firewall or similar technology for this purpose. Because firewalls filter IP traffic, they can also filter industrial control traffic running atop IP. However, while this will narrow the scope of legitimate traffic to what is authorized, even legitimate traffic needs to be inspected more closely.

Network based exploits, denial of service attacks, and insider attacks from disgruntled employees all utilize legitimate traffic in illegitimate ways. Deep packet inspection can help, by looking into packets for an indication of malicious intent. Content filtering (a feature in next generation firewalls) looks at the application contents rather than simply matching packet contents, to determine if an application is being misused. For example, to prevent access to a specific URL instead of blocking all web traffic. This provides additional granularity, but commercial content filters aim primarily at filtering web content and email, and not industrial applications. However, most application-layer firewalls lack the ability to make decisions upon the specialized application-layer protocols used within industrial systems, which ride atop TCP/IP but which establish their own application sessions, enact their own controls, and carry their own payloads.

To become relevant, the firewall must be able to understand these industrial applications, track application-layer sessions, and make decisions accordingly. To become highly relevant, the firewall should allow unwanted or unnecessary features to be disabled by default, so that they are more easily deployed and maintained in an environment staffed by operations managers and not IT managers.

Firewalls with Context
By utilizing existing firewall technology with the necessary relevance, context, and policy enforcement to filter industrial traffic and enterprise traffic; the device can adequately protect an industrial system and effectively secure zones. If the firewall can act transparently (i.e., it does not alter or impact IP communications) then it becomes feasible for deployment, by enabling zone-level separation (separation of systems by logical grouping and function) without the need for network reconfiguration. Such a firewall is much more practical for OT managers and staff because it will not interfere with approved control system designs.

Using relevant cyber security mechanisms, the complex network access policies required can finally be enforced. Through extensive filtering (using next generation firewalls that understand the nature of ICS application-layer protocols), the control network can be essentially “whitelisted.” By filtering the contents of industrial protocols, control can be highly granular and effective by defining which protocols are acceptable, which devices are authorized to communicate, and which tasks they are authorized to perform.

What this means is that zoning can finally be well defined and implemented by operators, using readily available and easy-to-use technology. This very basic and necessary first step toward a mature cyber security profile — the separation of systems into functional groups — will do more for security, reliability and safety than almost any other available security measure. Properly established zones and conduits will make unauthorized access to (and exploitation of) critical devices more difficult; they will help to isolate functional systems to minimize the impact of an incident; and perhaps most importantly, they create a strong architecture foundation upon which more sophisticated security controls can be built.

Eric D. Knapp (@ericdknapp) continues to drive the adoption of new security technology for a safer and more reliable automation infrastructures. Eric is the director of strategic alliances for Wurldtech Security Technologies. He is also the author of “Industrial Network Security: Securing Critical Infrastructure Networks for Smart Grid, SCADA, and Other Industrial Control Systems,” and the co-author of “Applied Cyber Security for Smart Grids.”

 
 
Archived Entries