Industrial Cyber Security Holds Center Stage At Year’s End

Last week I wrote about the cyber attack on a safety integrated system probably in Saudi Arabia. There has been another attack. When media relations people saw that I had written about cyber security, I started receiving more releases.

Cyber security

Here is some additional commentary by Eddie Habibi, CEO and founder of PAS Global. That company has moved strongly from alarm management investing heavily in building a cyber security practice.

“Since 2010, attackers have been intent on learning how process control networks in critical infrastructure plants work, what systems are in place, where vulnerabilities exist, and how best to manipulate these systems to affect plant safety and performance.  Attackers have now moved beyond reconnaissance and are leveraging their acquired knowledge of control networks to interrupt production and create safety incidents.  They are targeting systems that in many cases produce electricity for our businesses, gasoline for our cars, or clean water for our homes.

The TRITON (a.k.a. TRISIS) malware attack underscores the capabilities that attackers have acquired and the fact that traditional security controls – namely air gapping and security by obscurity – are no longer sufficiently effective.  As TRITON targets an integral part of the independent protection layers that keep plants safe, this should raise red flags with every critical infrastructure company in the world.

One of the first steps companies must take is to get better visibility into the cyber assets in their plants. Eighty percent of the assets in a plant are outside of traditional IT cybersecurity programs.  This is clearly unacceptable given the threat landscape we face today. Once companies gain visibility, they can begin to implement fundamental security controls such as monitoring for unauthorized change or discovering hidden vulnerabilities.  Otherwise, malware such as TRITON will continue to find fertile ground for causing production disruptions and even environmental or physical harm.”

Cyber security challenges for practitioners

Part of my daily contact with PAS Global’s PR person included this tidbit from Habibi.

With these seismic attacks looming over manufacturing plants/facilities and other critical infrastructure, PAS Global has identified the top 8 critical challenges ICS directors are facing:

  • Lack of overall visibility of ICS vulnerabilities
    Vulnerability exploits are under reported
  • False sense of security in many ICS environments
  • More disclosures than capacity to investigate
  • Limited visibility into ICS vulnerabilities and risks
  • Vulnerability investigation is manual and research-intensive
  • Limited visibility into vulnerability remediation effectiveness
  • Manual, inconsistent patch management

HatMan Malware

And this from Emily S. Miller, Director of National Security and Critical Infrastructure Programs at Mocana:

ICS-CERT’s analysis of the HatMan malware revealed some interesting and novel tidbits. Not only did the actor develop a ‘more traditional PC-based component that interacts with the safety PLC,’ but the malware also contained components specifically designed to compromise the safety device itself, which allowed changes to the device firmware. The fact that this actor has the capability to access the safety instrumentation device, and potentially make changes to the device firmware unnoticed, should make critical infrastructure owner-operators sit up and take heed. Yes, in this case the malware tripped the safety systems and was noticed, but who’s to say the actor won’t learn from its mistakes or hasn’t already? Current recommended mitigations promote defense-in-depth strategies. While these are absolutely pieces of the puzzle, things like network monitoring and segmentation alone are clearly not sufficient when the bad actors keep getting in and doing bad things to both the devices and the data contained therein. We have to do better about both defending the network AND protecting the devices themselves.”

Link to How Mocana Protects graphic on Dropbox.

Yet more cyber attacks in the news

Further communications from the agency for PAS Global. I appreciate the humor. “I didn’t want you to go a day without hearing from me. What a concerning week we are having for critical infrastructure!”

The warning is from Nyotron, which says it has spotted a threat actor with likely links to Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Algeria using a repurposed malware tool to target specific critical infrastructure organizations in the Middle East.

“We’ve seen a seven-fold increase in the number of cyberattacks on industrial control systems (ICS) since 2010. What makes this increase particularly alarming is the enhanced level of sophistication of the attacks and the success they have shown in achieving their goals.

The fact that infected USBs are behind the Copperfield attack underscores the lack of adequate, foundational security within industrial facilities. Critical infrastructure security is clearly not trending in the right direction. 

The simple fact is that 80% of cyber assets in a facility are highly proprietary, do not work with IT security controls, and are largely invisible to security personnel.  If we cannot see these assets, how can we hope to secure them?  If we cannot secure them, then we are staring at a tumultuous 2018 because the bad guys are savvy to the insecurity of these systems.”

Meanwhile, here is another defense

Most experts I talk with discuss the need for a defense-in-depth strategy. Occasionally entrepreneurs in the field wax enthusiastically about their particular solution. Albert Rooyakkers is one of those intense entrepreneurs who has designed an industrial control product with cyber security at the heart of the design.

Here is the latest news from Bedrock Automation.

It has announced Bedrock Open Secure Automation (OSA) firmware will include intrinsic Anomaly Detection (AD).  Bedrock OSA AD will be available as standard integrated functionality that continuously monitors the controller’s network and system time t0 detect intrusions and anomalous behavior.

“Preventing control system intrusion is fundamental to holistic cyber security.  In addition, users need to know when the system security is being challenged.  This is the role of anomaly detection.  At no additional cost or complexity for the user, Bedrock’s AD delivers additional assurance that no one is tampering with your automation,” said Rooyakkers.  Bedrock Anomaly Detection includes the following functionality: 

  • Dynamic Port Connection Monitoring, which records all attempts to connect any controller or communication point and captures identifying information on the intruder
  • Network Port Scanning, which detects if hackers are scanning for open ports that might provide access to the control network
  • System Time Monitoring, which detects attempts to manipulate log files to conceal malicious activity
  • Cryptographic Controller Engineering Key Lock, which permits only users with valid user credentials to change the configuration and operation mode of the controller and records all access
  • Intrusion Event Logging, which records all detected anomalies and reports them to SCADA software through OPC UA and standard database access for historian, alarming, and trending functions.  Additionally, a tri-color status LED on the faceplate of Bedrock Controllers provides indication locally whenever an intrusion is detected.

Anomalous behavior detected at the controller level signifies a high likelihood of a cyber security event. Embedding detection into the controller provides advanced cyber defense while reducing complexity and lifecycle cost.  Bedrock AD will be standard on all Bedrock systems and is available as a free firmware upgrade to installed systems as part of Cybershield 3.0 in March 2018.

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