Industrial Control Systems (ICS) security represents a significant challenge in today’s world. Some months ago I gave a presentation on ICS Cybersecurity in the ISACA’s EuroCACS/ISRM Conference in Copenhaguen, and now, I’m going to explain in this post some concepts we were discussing there about security concerns.
Industrial infrastructure has a very long life cycle (over 20 or 25 years) and for this reason, most of the implemented security measures in control systems are outdated and rely upon a sort of “security through obscurity” (if an attacker doesn’t know what to attack, we are secure) but of course this is wrong, -it has been proven that this is a wrong approach!
However, the fact that industrial systems adopt IP protocols certainly introduces a new security risk, but we must not forget that other risks already existed before and they had nothing to do with the Internet.
Let’s look at some of these security concerns:
1) Weak communication protocols
We’re working with communication protocols designed in the 70’s and in the 80’s: (DNP3, Modbus, ProfiNet, etc.) and most of them do not incorporate either authentication or encryption. Without authentication anyone who can access the network could send control signals to a specific device, and -as you know- a “bad guy” can gain access to the network in many different ways. And without encryption, the data transmitted over the network can easily be obtained using a network sniffer (i.e., Wireshark).