Embedded and Edge Capture Attention At ARC Forum

Embedded and Edge Capture Attention At ARC Forum

I was so busy during the ARC Advisory Group Industry Forum last week, that I just couldn’t find time to write coherently. The keyword was digital supplemented by embedded, edge, IIoT, security, and transformation.

The Forum attracted perhaps not only its largest attendance but also its largest attendance of end users. The things that appeal to me are those that fit into the Industrial Internet of Things the most. Here are two related new product releases. The first one involves embedding HMI/SCADA software and the second involves using that embedded software in addition to many other technologies for an edge device.

First is the announcement from Inductive Automation concerning the creation of its Ignition Onboard program. The program involves device manufacturers embedding Ignition and Ignition Edge software in the devices they manufacture.

The program includes Ignition Onboard and Ignition Edge Onboard. Ignition by Inductive Automation is an industrial application platform with tools for building solutions in human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Ignition Edge is a line of lightweight, limited, low-cost Ignition software products which empower solutions designed for edge-of-network use.

“Device manufacturers have joined Ignition Onboard in response to their customers’ demands for an all-in-one solution that contains hardware and software at a reasonable price,” said Don Pearson, chief strategy officer for Inductive Automation. “These are companies that understand the importance of building a strong IIoT, and we’re very happy to be collaborating with them.”

The other announcement came from Opto 22. This is a significant advance in edge devices for industrial and SCADA applications.
The new groov EPIC system from Opto 22 combines I/O, control, data processing, and visualization into one secure, maintainable, edge-of-network industrial system. groov EPIC lets engineers and developers focus on delivering value, not on triaging loosely connected components.

“We are a company of engineers inspired and driven to create products that unleash our customers’ imaginations,” says Mark Engman, Opto 22 CEO. “groov EPIC is a culmination of that mission, a response to industry requests to more wholly integrate IT and OT technologies, simplify development and deployment, and provide a platform for long-term growth now and well into the future.”

Combining reimagined intelligent I/O with an embedded Linux real-time controller, gateway functions, and an integrated display, groov EPIC offers field-proven industrial hardware design with a modern software ensemble, to produce the results that visionary engineers want today.

Connecting legacy systems, controlling processes and automating machines, subscribing to web services and creating mashups, acquiring and publishing data, visualizing that data wherever it is needed, and mobilizing operators—all of these are now within reach. In addition, groov EPIC simplifies commissioning and wiring and helps engineers develop rapidly and deploy quickly.

“The groov EPIC system incorporates in one unit everything needed to connect and control field and operational devices and data, through on-premises IT databases, spreadsheets and other software, to cloud storage and services—and back again,” says Benson Hougland, Opto 22 vice president of Marketing & Product Strategy. “This ability to easily exchange data and use it where needed opens opportunities automation engineers have not had until now. This is a truly new system that builds on the past but looks fundamentally to the future of our industry.”

Of particular interest to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will be optional access to the Linux operating system through secure shell (SSH). This access, along with toolchains and interpreters for Java, C/C++, Python, JavaScript/Node.js, and more, allows OEM developers to execute their own custom developed applications on this ruggedized, edge processing control system.

The main point of discussion between Benson and me lately is whether Sparkplug (from the developer of MQTT) is adequate for IoT applications. He favors the lightweight (technical, not pejorative) protocol or I tend to favor OPC UA over MQTT as a better overall solution due to its interoperability. But that’s OK. He and I have had these technical discussions for almost 20 years now. I love pushback, and I think Benson does as well. It raises the energy level.

Industrial Cyber Security Holds Center Stage At Year’s End

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.

Cybersecurity Attack on an Industrial Safety System

Cybersecurity Attack on an Industrial Safety System

There was evidently a cybersecurity incident spotted yesterday. There was a report on FireEye quoted below. I also received this statement from CyberX. I am not primarily a cybersecurity writer, but this is significant.

“We have information that points to Saudi Arabia as the likely target of this attack, which would indicate Iran as the likely attacker. It’s widely believed that Iran was responsible for destructive attacks on Saudi Arabian IT networks in 2012 and more recently in 2017 with Shamoon, which destroyed ordinary PCs. This would definitely be an escalation of that threat because now we’re talking about critical infrastructure — but it’s also a logical next step for the adversary. Stuxnet and more recently Industroyer showed that modern industrial malware can be used to reprogram and manipulate critical devices such as industrial controllers, and TRITON appears to be simply an evolution of those approaches.” Phil Neray, VP of Industrial Cybersecurity for CyberX, a Boston-based industrial cybersecurity firm.

From the FireEye report (see complete analysis on its Website).

Mandiant recently responded to an incident at a critical infrastructure organization where an attacker deployed malware designed to manipulate industrial safety systems. The targeted systems provided emergency shutdown capability for industrial processes. We assess with moderate confidence that the attacker was developing the capability to cause physical damage and inadvertently shutdown operations. This malware, which we call TRITON, is an attack framework built to interact with Triconex Safety Instrumented System (SIS) controllers. We have not attributed the incident to a threat actor, though we believe the activity is consistent with a nation state preparing for an attack.

TRITON is one of a limited number of publicly identified malicious software families targeted at industrial control systems (ICS). It follows Stuxnet which was used against Iran in 2010 and Industroyer which we believe was deployed by Sandworm Team against Ukraine in 2016. TRITON is consistent with these attacks, in that it could prevent safety mechanisms from executing their intended function, resulting in a physical consequence.

The attacker gained remote access to an SIS engineering workstation and deployed the TRITON attack framework to reprogram the SIS controllers. During the incident, some SIS controllers entered a failed safe state, which automatically shutdown the industrial process and prompted the asset owner to initiate an investigation. The investigation found that the SIS controllers initiated a safe shutdown when application code between redundant processing units failed a validation check — resulting in an MP diagnostic failure message.

We assess with moderate confidence that the attacker inadvertently shutdown operations while developing the ability to cause physical damage for the following reasons:

Modifying the SIS could prevent it from functioning correctly, increasing the likelihood of a failure that would result in physical consequences.

TRITON was used to modify application memory on SIS controllers in the environment, which could have led to a failed validation check.

The failure occurred during the time period when TRITON was used.

It is not likely that existing or external conditions, in isolation, caused a fault during the time of the incident.

The TRITON attack tool was built with a number of features, including the ability to read and write programs, read and write individual functions and query the state of the SIS controller. However, only some of these capabilities were leveraged in the trilog.exe sample (e.g. the attacker did not leverage all of TRITON’s extensive reconnaissance capabilities).

The TRITON malware contained the capability to communicate with Triconex SIS controllers (e.g. send specific commands such as halt or read its memory content) and remotely reprogram them with an attacker-defined payload. The TRITON sample Mandiant analyzed added an attacker-provided program to the execution table of the Triconex controller. This sample left legitimate programs in place, expecting the controller to continue operating without a fault or exception. If the controller failed, TRITON would attempt to return it to a running state. If the controller did not recover within a defined time window, this sample would overwrite the malicious program with invalid data to cover its tracks.

Industrial Control System Secure By Design

Industrial Control System Secure By Design

Inductive Automation included a number of partner companies in its Ignition Community Conference last week in Folsom, CA. Among these companies was Bedrock Automation. I’ve written about Bedrock before a few times. This trip I was looking at its display when its CEO in disguise appeared.

Why it matters: Cyber security is at the top of everyone’s mind these days. Bedrock Automation has designed a system to be secure from all parts of the supply chain.

Albert Rooyakkers, founder/CEO/CTO, was wearing a hat and sunglasses and I walked right past him. However, he came over and gave me his usual high energy explanation of the entire Bedrock system.

Bedrock Automation builds an industrial control system (PLC) that was designed from the beginning with security in mind. Not just cyber security, but also security from tampering, lightning, high-energy electromagnetic interference, and more.

Intrinsic Security begins with Strong Cryptography, then adds Secure Components, Component Anti Tamper, Secure Firmware, Secure Communications, and Module Anti Tamper.

The metal construction showcases the secure construction, just as does the design of the I/O modules and communication with the controller (no insecure backplane).

Public Key Infrastructure

Rooyakkers always gives me the deep dive into Public Key Infrastructure which leads to Hardware Root of Trust—the essential element of security in the product.

Use of asymmetric cryptography for authentication and key exchange is the basis of secure e-commerce. In the internet context, there is a critical additional piece, a root of trust at the center of an exchange. This is called Certificate Authority. Key pairs, certificates, a root of trust and interoperable algorithms together form a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) which includes the infrastructure and policies to manage and maintain the trust. Some of the building blocks include:

• Signatures
• Transport Layer Security
• X.509 Certificates
• Certificate Chain of Trust
• Root Certificate Authority

Until now PKI has not been implemented in industrial control systems. Bedrock Automation embeds the Hardware Root of Trust in the control system. It is designed from the ground up with security in mind.
Bedrock Automation has always gone to market with systems integrators—a strategy that fits with Inductive Automation. In many remote control and SCADA systems, the two form a perfect pair.

Emerson Launches IIoT-Enabled Controller Taking Aim At PLCs

Emerson Launches IIoT-Enabled Controller Taking Aim At PLCs

Just when I thought I’d never write about Controllers, here comes a very interesting announcement from Emerson Automation Solutions [note new name]. Taking direct aim at its competitors who have moved aggressively from discrete control into process systems, Emerson announced launch of the DeltaV PK Controller.

This controller targets fast-growth industries traditionally less reliant on large-scale automation. The next-gen controller provides scalable automation control to all process industries, particularly parts of the life sciences, oil and gas, petrochemical, and discrete manufacturing industries that have relied on complex, non-integrated programmable logic controllers (PLCs) with limited operational capabilities. The fit-for-purpose DeltaV PK Controller is the process industry’s first controller that manufacturers can scale down for skid units or scale up to be natively merged into the DeltaV DCS in a larger plant.

These industries tend to use PLCs for smaller applications, which can create disconnected “Islands of Automation,” and limits plant production improvements. The DeltaV PK Controller bridges small and large control applications. Organizations can leverage the DeltaV PK Controller for effective, easy-to-implement standalone automation control akin to a PLC but with the features of a full-scale DCS, including advanced batch production, recipe management, execution, and historization. Users can then choose to leave the DeltaV PK Controller standalone, or natively merge it into their DeltaV DCS. This capability eliminates operational complexity and dramatically improves the performance, safety, and efficiency of their entire project and operational lifecycle.

“The DeltaV PK Controller delivers a business-effective solution for organizations of all sizes to improve automation control and integration,” said Jessica Jordan, Emerson product manager. “The controller is capable of powerful standalone control for advanced automation on skids today while still being able to easily integrate into a full-scale DCS for total plant production control.”

The DeltaV PK Controller is the latest addition to Emerson’s Project Certainty initiative, targeting radical transformation in capital project execution. The new controller will simplify capital projects by enabling OEM skid-builders to design and produce skids in the same way they do today, while eliminating the costs, time, and risks associated with integrating a PLC into their control system.

The DeltaV PK Controller was designed from the start with connectivity, particularly into the IIoT, in mind. The scalable controller leverages an assortment of communication protocols, including the first Emerson controller with a built-in OPC UA server. It is also the first Emerson controller with six Ethernet ports and can operate using any Emerson DeltaV I/O type, including DeltaV Electronic Marshalling, traditional marshalled I/O, wireless I/O, and integrated safety instrumented systems. In addition, it has built-in protocols to communicate with Ethernet devices such as drives and motors. Together, these features make connectivity easier at every stage and help plants achieve operational benefits of cloud-based tools and analytics through the IIoT. The DeltaV PK Controller also features built-in redundancy for controllers, communication, and power supplies, allowing organizations to improve uptime without adding to complexity or footprint.


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