ICS or industrial control systems were simpler before the development of the web. Here, most organizations only invested in the physical protection of their properties. But, with the development of the web, things changed. Unfortunately, because of this, many organizations have fallen victim to cybercrimes leading them to incur losses.
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What Is ICS Security?
ICS security entails protecting industrial control systems from threats by cyber-attacks. Also, it involves securing the hardware and software used by the systems. Examples of devices classified as ICS include:
- Remote terminal units (RTUs)
- Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs)
- Human-machine interfaces (HMIs)
- Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA)
These systems give operators an easy way to manage, track, and control the different industrial processes. The systems also monitor different industrial processes and complex infrastructure.
These systems function like systems that deliver water and power, manufacturing, transport, and other essential services. A lot of industrial control systems that operate today connect to the internet.
They provide control of inputs and outputs of different critical elements in the physical and operational process. These processes are adjustable to ensure the operations conducted are proper and safe. They additionally ensure operations run smoothly and detect any issues early that may erupt into problems.
ICS may contain few controllers or a complex network that consists of several connections. These systems get their data from remote sensors that measure and track variation in processes. The system sends commands to control functions using final control elements like the control valves.
For example, when the remote sensors check your machines, it sends a message to the industrial control system. If it notices a problem, for instance, machinery overheating, the ICS will signal the machinery to shut down. Some buildings use it to regulate their energy.
Traditional IT security and ICS security contain differences. Examples of such cases include:
- Handling risks need different techniques because of differences in types of devices.
- There are risks to information confidentiality in the integrity of the process and the safety of personnel and property.
- Protected devices are sensitive to unplanned changes or interactions. For instance, a new class of OT assets is much older than IT systems.
Organizations need to invest in ICS security solutions. The step is important in strengthening their security and maintaining economic stability. Some of the tops ICS vendors in the market are ABB, Honeywell, Cisco, Lockheed Martin, and Fortinet.
ICS Security Best Practices
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ICS contains a wide range of practices like;
- vulnerability management
- patch management
- user and access management
- endpoint detection and response
- asset inventory and Detection
- network intrusion protection and Detection.
Coming up with the best ICS security is essential to ensure the smooth operation of such systems. The following are examples of these practices:
1. A Deeper Understanding of Each of Your Devices
Have a deep understanding of every industrial device in your industrial control systems. You need to have access to a different set of data, like the device’s physical location. It is also important to keep note of industrial processes and who you can call in case an issue emerges.
Without the relevant details, the security-related information you have becomes useless.
2. Implement Least Privilege
Several ICS protocols don’t implement access protocols. Thus, it’s easy for one to access these systems and interfere with their functionality. ICS protocol-aware is used in enforcing access control on ICS network traffic.
3. Secure Remote and Physical Access
Remote access is important and necessary in the management of ICS assets at a particular geographical site. The access needs to be implemented through access control, strong authentication, and encryption. This is to protect the system against unauthorized access.
Both physical and cybersecurity measures need to protect ICS.
4. Centralizing Management of User Accounts
Several ICS servers contain assets of standard usernames and passwords. Thus, administrators get to enjoy a lot of privileges. The systems may include domain controllers that, if tampered with, may affect ICS integrity.
Security teams need to centralize the management, monitor, and report access to protect and validate user accounts. This is done to prevent such occurrences.
5. Perform Network Segmentation
For the longest time, ICS networks were protected by air gaps. However, the narrative has now changed. It’s necessary for securing systems that weren’t designed to be connected to the internet network. This allows them to be segmented with firewalls that understand ICS protocols.
Why is the Industrial Control System Security Important?
Unfortunately, when an attack occurs in the system, malfunctioning occurs. This may lead to many damages in different areas. Such damages can be pretty expensive and lead to unplanned costs. Some of these costs may include restoring the system and restoring the company’s image.
To avoid damages to their systems, organizations should consider the protection of the industrial infrastructure.
Detection and response of an attack require specific knowledge of the systems affected. It’s essential to apply a system that can be measured. One that wouldn’t cause harm or stop the expected operational process inappropriately.
Challenges Of ICS Security
Since most of these systems connect to the internet, there are also some vulnerabilities involved. Such loopholes may lead to massive outages, thousands of affected users, and worse, a national disaster. Even with the great things it has to offer, it faces some challenges. Some of which are:
High Availability Requirements
Availability is the essential aspect for ICS systems in manufacturing, critical infrastructure, and other crucial systems. Thus, securing such systems can be difficult as it’s hard to take them down and install security updates.
Focuses on Detection Over prevention
Unfortunately, ICS security is set to detect attacks rather than attempt to prevent them.
Proprietary and Proprietary Protocols
ICS uses different proprietary protocols, even those designed several years ago to support long-lived components. Unfortunately, these protocols lack basic security features like access control and encryption which can’t be updated.
ICS is an integral part of the world’s ever-evolving infrastructure. It continues to power everything we enjoy in this connected society. Industrial cybersecurity is also ever-evolving. Thus, coming up with systems to help stop such crimes is the best thing that can happen.