SCADA devices and networks remain a prime target for cyber attacks. Everything I’ve written has approached cybersecurity from a different angle. This is the first solution that has come my way that uses a deception approach.
Attivo Networks announced Dec. 7, 2015 a release of its deception-based Attivo BOTsink solution that provides continuous threat detection on Industrial Control Systems (ICS) SCADA devices used to monitor and control most manufacturing operations as well as critical infrastructure such as natural gas, oil, water, and electric power distribution and transmission systems around the world. Cyberattacks on these targets can and have resulted in disruption of critical local, regional, and national government and commercial infrastructures. As a result, when they are breached, the impact on societies they serve stands to be catastrophic.
According to a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 60 percent of the technology experts interviewed believe that a major cyberattack will happen. The damages to property and ensuing theft will amount tens of billions of dollars, and the loss of life will be significant.
Scalable SCADA protection
“We are proud to be the first in the industry to provide customers a globally scalable, deception-based threat detection solution for SCADA protection,” emphasizes Tushar Kothari, CEO of Attivo Networks. “Many of our customers from the energy industry have requested the extension of our Attivo Deception Platform into their production and manufacturing control networks so they can get real-time visibility and the ability to promptly identify and remediate infected devices. As one stated, ‘a breach on those networks can be catastrophic and Attivo wants to do everything we can to prevent a disaster or risk to lives.”
SCADA systems had originally been designed to monitor critical production processes without consideration to security consequences. Security had been generally handled by keeping the devices off the network and the Internet using “air gaps” where malware could only be transmitted by the thumb drives used by technicians. However, today vulnerable SCADA systems are increasingly being connected to the corporate IT infrastructure and Internet, making them easily accessible to a remote attacker.
Examples of this would be the Sandworm malware that attacked Telecommunications and Energy sectors, Havex malware that infected a SCADA system manufacturer, and BlackEnergy malware that attacks ICS products manufactured by GE, Siemens, and Advantech. These attacks primarily targeted the operational capabilities of these facilities. With the increased malicious and sophistication of malware, concerns are now escalating to fears of an irreversible disaster.
“Industrial systems have increasingly come under scrutiny from both attackers and defenders,” said Chris Blask, Chair of the Industrial Control System Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ICS-ISAC). “Situational awareness is the focus of the ICS-ISAC and its membership, including the ability for asset owners to detect and respond to incidents on their systems.”
These devices generally have long lifecycles creating an exposed environment driven by equipment that is less hardened and patches made infrequently. Additionally, because of their critical functions, SCADA devices cannot be taken offline frequently or for any length of time. This, along with costs that can run into the millions for every hour the network is offline, has made patching very difficult, often as infrequent as once a year, leaving many industrial facilities open to attacks. These risks are quite large considering these devices are found everywhere in electrical facilities, food processing, manufacturing, on-board ships, transportations and more.
“Companies operating in critical infrastructures like energy, utilities, nuclear, oil and gas know that they are not only vulnerable to the same security issues faced by most enterprises, they have the added enticement as a rich target for cyber terrorism,” stated Tony Dao, Director Information Technology, Aspect Engineering Group. “They recognize that securing their industrial control processes is not only critical to them, but to the institutions they serve. A loss would not only have repercussions throughout their economic sector but throughout the entire economy.”
The vulnerabilities begin with the use of default passwords, hard-coded encryption keys, and a lack of firmware updates, which pave the way for attackers to gain access and take control of industrial devices. Traditional perimeter-based solutions are designed to detect attacks on these devices by looking for suspicious attack behavior based on known signature patterns. SCADA supervisory systems are computers running normal Windows operating systems and are susceptible to zero day attacks, in which there are no known signatures or software patches. Several vulnerabilities also exist in the standard and proprietary protocols within Logic Controllers. Popular protocols include MODBUS (supervision and control), DNP3 (Energy and Water), BACNET (Building Automation), and IPMI (Baseboard Management Control).
Attivo Networks takes a different approach to detecting cyber attacks on ICS- SCADA devices. Instead of relying on signatures or known attack patterns, Attivo uses deception technology to lure the attackers to a BOTsink engagement device. Customers have the flexibility to install their own Open Platform Communications (OPC) software while running popular protocols and PLC devices on the BOTsink solution making it indistinguishable from production SCADA devices. This provides real-time detection of BOTs and advanced persistent threats (APTs) that are conducting reconnaissance to mount their attacks on critical facility and energy networks. Additionally, BOTsink forensics capture information including new device connections, issued commands and connection termination, enabling administrators to study the attacker’s tools, techniques, and information on infected devices that need remediation.
The Attivo SCADA solution is provided through a custom software image that runs on its BOTsink appliance or virtual machine. SCADA BOTsink deployment and management are provided through the Attivo Central Manager, which provides global central device management and threat intelligence dashboards and reporting.
“To a significant degree, the growing security problems impacting industrial control systems have originated from the fact that ICSs are increasingly less and less isolated from outside networks and systems, and ICSs are now more susceptible and vulnerable to attacks,” comments Ruggero Contu, Research Director at Gartner in his Market Trends: Industrial Control System Security, 2015 report. “At the heart of this change is the demand to integrate enterprise IT systems to operational technology, and for remote connectivity.”
Check out this whiter paper. Dynamic Deception for Industrial Automation and Control Systems