Industrial automation and cyber security are the alarming trend as linked devices and systems become more prevalent in these environments. Industrial control systems, such as those utilized in manufacturing, energy, and transportation, are frequently indispensable to the running of a facility and the safety of its employees. Mitigating risks in ICS is of paramount importance as they are prime targets for cyberattacks. Some high-profile cyberattacks on the industrial sector have disrupted operations and caused major damage in recent years.
We have listed 13 strategies that help manage the security of the Industrial Control Systems by mitigating risks In ICS.
Table of Contents
What is Operational Technology Cybersecurity?
Operational Technology Cybersecurity refers to the software, hardware, policies, employees, and services that are employed to protect operational technology infrastructure, individuals, and data.
OT Cybersecurity is a crucial component of ensuring the uptime, security, and safety of critical infrastructure and industrial control systems (ICS). The cybersecurity guide must be understood so that cyber threats to industrial control systems are effectively addressed and mitigated to guarantee that essential services continue to be available to everyone.
What is Industrial Control System (ICS)?
Industrial Control Systems (ICSs) are groups of hardware and control systems that are used to automate and run a wide range of industrial processes.
Ensuring cyber security for industrial control systems poses various specific issues, including the following:
- Engineering protocols lack security.
- The requirement to retest engineering systems following upgrades.
- Lengthy lifespans (20 to 50 years).
- Many IT protocols, such as the Network Time Protocol and the Address Resolution Protocol, have been added to the engineering environment.
- Standard IT tools for debugging and analyzing may not be set up to receive or respond to messages from devices.
Most Common Source of Risk
This refers to malicious software such as viruses, spyware, ransomware, and worms. Malware enters a network via a backdoor or a vulnerability, particularly when a user clicks on a link or downloads email attachments and then installs malware. Malware is responsible for the following:
- Ransomware encrypts sensitive data, forcing criminals to demand a ransom.
- It installs malicious software or malicious code.
- Spyware secretly collects data by transferring data from the hard disk.
- It disrupts critical components, rendering the system unavailable or unworkable.
Phishing is the fraudulent technique of transmitting or imitating incorrect messages or information that appears to be from a known, respectable source, commonly through phony websites that look like the real ones or through fake emails. The goal is to steal money by compromising sensitive data, such as credit card numbers and login information, or to install malicious programs on the target machine.
A man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack, also called an eavesdropping attack, happens when attackers in the middle of a transaction pretend to be real receivers. They filter and steal information after disrupting the flow.
A denial-of-service (DoS) attack floods servers, systems, and networks with unwanted traffic to use up network resources and bandwidth, making the system unable to handle valid requests. Attackers also employ numerous devices to carry out this distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack.
A brute-force attack is one in which a hacker attempts to guess the password by entering multiple character combinations.
A zero-day exploit is an attack that occurs after a vulnerability has been discovered and published but before a solution or patch has been applied. During this little window of opportunity, attackers take advantage of the vulnerability. Continuous awareness is required for zero-day threat detection.
The Effects of ICS Cyber Attacks
The following are the short-term, immediate consequences of successful ICS cyber attacks:
- Visibility loss over production and safety systems
- Financial loss as a result of disruptions and downtime
- Health and personal safety hazards
- Property and equipment damage and destruction
Long-term consequences of successful ICS cyber attacks include:
- High unexpected labor, overtime, and idle equipment expenses
- Insurance increases or denials
- Fees and litigation resulting from negligence or non-compliance
- Customer loss
Recognize your threat environment
Before you may choose proper mitigation techniques and a cybersecurity guide, you must first understand:
- Who would likely target your company?
- What specific infrastructure may they target?
- How severe may an attack on each component of your infrastructure be?
Threat modeling your organization will help you answer some of these questions by showing you which systems are most important for delivering key services. It will also help you set priorities and a budget for your cyber security efforts.
Essential Strategies for Mitigating Security Risks in Industrial Control System (ICS)
Security risks in ICS environments are a growing concern as cyber threats continue to evolve. In order to effectively manage the security of industrial control systems, organizations must adopt a proactive and comprehensive approach to mitigating risks in ICS. Failure to address these risks can lead to severe consequences, including damage to property, loss of human life, or even large-scale disasters.
Here is a list of best practices that businesses should use to protect ICS environments:
The goal of network segmentation is to divide the system into discrete security zones and establish levels of protection that will isolate essential system components using a policy enforcement device. This approach can help in managing the security of industrial control systems by minimizing the potential impact of an attack.
Secure remote access to computer networks is made possible with the aid of firewalls, Virtual Private Networks (VPN), dial-up callback, multi-factor authentication, user access control, and intrusion detection. Since ICSs are often utilized in remote locations with limited connections, securing these connections is crucial for mitigating risks in ICS.
Wireless connectivity to the ICS network offers dangers similar to remote access, but with several new attack vectors (e.g., unauthorized individuals accessing the plant’s wireless network from outside the plant’s physical security perimeter). Furthermore, wireless media is highly vulnerable to Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks. Implementing security measures for wireless communications is essential in managing the security of industrial control systems.
Patch management is a critical component of any approach regarding overall control system security. In many cases, installing a vendor-released software patch or update is the only viable mitigation for a newly discovered vulnerability. Regular patching helps in mitigating risks in ICS by addressing potential security flaws.
Access Policies and Control
Access control includes everything that has to do with controlling physical and electronic access to a network, device, or service, from setting up security roles and responsibilities to making policies and procedures for authentication.
Hardening a system’s components involves restricting the functioning of various system components to prevent unauthorized access or changes, removing unneeded functions or features, and patching any known vulnerabilities. System hardening plays a vital role in mitigating risks in ICS by reducing potential attack surfaces.
Every system needs a mechanism for monitoring system activity and identifying potentially harmful network events. Without this, minor security vulnerabilities may go undetected until they escalate into serious security incidents. Implementing intrusion detection systems is essential for managing the security of industrial control systems.
Physical and Environmental Security
Physical access to critical ICS assets should be restricted to those who need it to perform their jobs, using approved or authorized equipment. In addition to physical access control, critical equipment, such as ICS, must be well protected from environmental threats. Ensuring physical and environmental security is crucial in mitigating risks in ICS.
Malware Protection and Detection
In general, the benefits of running antivirus software on ICS hosts outweigh the risk of the software causing a system crash. Implementing robust malware protection and detection measures can help manage the security of industrial control systems by defending against malicious software.
Personnel ICS security training and awareness is a critical tool in mitigating cybersecurity threats. Each ICS security program must include a training and awareness program to ensure that staff understands their roles and what is expected of them. One of the most critical lines of defense in safeguarding a system is a knowledgeable and alert workforce.
Periodic Assessments and Audits
Several factors influence a system’s security throughout its life cycle. As a result, periodic testing and verification of the system are critical for achieving maximum security. Regular assessments and audits can help organizations identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities in their ICS, which is essential for managing the security of industrial control systems and mitigating risks in ICS.
Change Control and Configuration Management
Change management rules and procedures are used to regulate hardware, firmware, software, and documentation modifications. To protect the ICS from unauthorized changes before, during, and after commissioning, it is set up in this manner. Implementing effective change control and configuration management processes can help maintain the security of industrial control systems.
Incident Planning and Response
A comprehensive cyber incident response plan should include both proactive and reactive measures. Proactive measures can help prevent incidents or improve the organization’s ability to respond when one occurs, while reactive measures can help detect and manage an issue after it has occurred. Developing and implementing a robust incident planning and response strategy is essential for mitigating risks in ICS and managing the security of industrial control systems.
There is no way to guarantee that a company will not be a victim of ransomware or another threat; therefore, increased diligence and continuous assessment of controls with internal and external partners are critical.
As information and communication technologies are used more often, ICS are becoming exposed to a variety of risks for which they are unprepared, leaving them vulnerable to malicious attacks. Companies must manage risks from an expanding attack surface by learning about the dynamic field of cybersecurity and implementing effective strategies for mitigating risks in ICS and managing the security of industrial control systems.
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