The growing use of widely available technologies in industrial control systems (ICS) and the growth of more connected, information-enabled enterprises inherently increases security risks, and with it the responsibilities of control system providers and users alike.
Historically, industrial control systems used proprietary technologies, and were generally segregated from the information systems at most companies. The systems were largely incompatible and the commercial technologies that were used in office spaces simply didn’t fit the requirements of control systems.
As commercial technologies advanced in recent decades, they were adapted for use in control systems, improving costs, compatibility, and ease of use. With these improvements, connectivity between systems became simpler and increasingly demanded by users.
Bringing together enterprise-level IT and plant-level operations technology into a common infrastructure creates more opportunities to improve operations, but without proper cybersecurity hygiene may also provide increased opportunities for cyber-attacks against ICS equipment.
Such attacks, if successful, can have severe impact on worker, environmental and product safety, intellectual property, reputation and productivity.
These challenges are changing the way ICS providers and users work together, bringing increased responsibilities to each.
Unfortunately, the threat is real. Attacks on control systems have increased dramatically in recent years. It’s not just the infrastructure risk of attack from nation-states. Today’s threats include hacktivists, cyber criminals, and disgruntled employees.
A comprehensive cybersecurity strategy includes cybersecurity hygiene — asset inventory to understand what you have, controlling physical and digital access, segmentation, system configuration and other actions. It also includes adoption of NIST CSF to identify, protect, detect, respond and recover from cyber-attacks.
It also requires that ICS providers, like Rockwell Automation, constantly test products and review applications to identify and remediate vulnerabilities in products. Disclosing remediated vulnerabilities through patch and version management helps protect ICS users from cyber-attacks.
It is part of an ethical, comprehensive cybersecurity strategy to help verify our customers’ security and safety. While not actually new, the increased focus on security in recent years, and the more frequent disclosures may seem surprising to some.
To others that have worked closely with IT, it will seem natural and expected. To all, it should be welcomed as a clear focus on supporting the safety and security of industrial control systems.