Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Desperately Seeking SCADA

Shodan, “the scariest search engine on the Internet,” was back in the news this month with the launch of Shodan Maps. For those unfamiliar, Shodan tracks devices that are connected to the Internet, including SCADA and industrial control systems (ICS). Now, instead of just identifying these systems, searchers can see where they’re located. This is troubling, as it gives our adversaries physical directions to what appear to be poorly defended critical infrastructure systems. 

Fortunately, Shodan isn’t designed for your average Googler. Those who are capable of carrying out a large-scale cyberattack against critical infrastructure sites, though, will have the technological knowhow to navigate the search engine. Researchers with Project SHINE have identified more than 1 million IP addresses globally that are potentially associated with SCADA and ICS devices. However, at the recent Public Safety Canada ICS Security Workshop, it was reported that the DHS investigated the 500,000 American IP addresses SHINE reported, and found that only a little more than 7,000 were real control system equipment. While this is a small percentage of the original number, it is still a disturbing amount of equipment.

The issue remains: in a constantly connected universe, any system that is connected directly or indirectly to the Internet is vulnerable to attack. Large scale control systems recognize this and are buried behind layers of firewalls, but firewalls aren’t enough to defend against modern day cyberthreats. Firewall vulnerabilities are well known to anyone with a modest security background, and control systems connected to the Internet is a problem made worse by exposing them via search engine.

The best-defended control systems, such as those at every American nuclear plant and an even larger number of conventional power plants, have installed Unidirectional Security Gateways, a stronger-than-firewall technology that thoroughly protects control systems from Internet attacks, however indirect they are. That someone with average skills can locate Internet-exposed control systems should inspire any utility manager to improve defenses.

See how unidirectional security gateways can deliver true security.

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