In the midst of another vulnerability found in SCADA software, MWR InfoSecurity‘s Rob Miller had the following to say about the increase in these instances, how to prevent it becoming a problem in your organisation and what lies ahead for the future.
“A major challenge for companies that own and operate Industrial Control Systems (ICS) is to translate the incoming mass of security issues such as this into an actionable plan. The first stage of this is to know whether or not a vulnerability affects your systems. This can only be achieved if you have an up to date asset register that lists the hardware and software you rely on. Asset registers are notoriously difficult to create and maintain. This is because techniques used for IT asset management are not always compatible with ICS networks. Additionally, ICS are often reconfigured without keeping logs of the changes made. A number of solutions exist for this issue, ranging from professional off the shelf solutions like Industrial Defender to independent inspections and custom built tools that can determine the hardware on a network by its traffic.
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“After building and maintaining an asset register, the next step for ICS owners is to understand the impact of these issues and work out how (if at all) they can implement additional security measures to protect against them. If patching is not an option for six or twelve months (which is often the case due to certification or operational restrictions), then other options may still be available such as restricting the networks that can connect to the affected systems or increasing monitoring of network traffic for signs of malicious activity.
“The vulnerabilities we see here are not new, and we are going to be seeing more of them. Many groups, from hacktivists to nation states, seek the ability to control or damage critical infrastructure and are investing time and money to improve their capabilities. We have seen evidence of this in both the report covering the 2008 pipeline explosion in Turkey, as well as the steel mill attack in Germany last year.
“This increase in interest is magnified by ICS vendors competing to win business by offering new services. Many of these services lead to increase connectivity as users want to view real time ICS information from their PCs or smart phones. An increase in features and connectivity always leads to an increase in the attack surface available for an attacker to gain access.
“At MWR, we have seen an increasing concern within the ICS community with regard to ICS component security, most likely influenced by vulnerabilities like this one. Owners understand that once they install equipment and the system goes live, it is difficult or sometimes impossible to make changes to the equipment when a vulnerability is found. Owners and vendors will often bring in security specialists to perform detailed inspection and assessment of the security of the products before installing them. The goal is to give them a clear picture of the risks a product will expose them to and what options are available to keep their key assets safe.”
By Rob Miller, Security Consultant, MWR InfoSecurity
About MWR InfoSecurity
Established in 2003, MWR InfoSecurity is a research-led information security consultancy, with a client list consisting of Dow Jones, NASDAQ, FTSE 100 companies and Government agencies & departments. MWR consults with clients around the world, providing specialist advice and services on all areas of security, from mobile through to supercomputers.
Central to its philosophy is the desire to deliver high quality cyber security consulting services and unsurpassed levels of support to clients. MWR’s focus is working with clients to develop and deliver a full security programme, tailored to meet the needs of each individual organisation.
MWR’s services range across professional and managed services, technical solutions and training covering areas such as security research, incident response, web defense, phishing, mobile and payment security.