Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Unidirectional protections for electric generation (A white paper)

Waterfall Security Solutions released a new white paper describing how Unidirectional Security Gateways and related products are used in power generation applications. The white paper documents the big picture of how, where and why Waterfall’s customers are using the company’s products to protect generating networks. To my knowledge, this is the first time a comprehensive network architecture or use case for unidirectional protections of generating networks has been documented.

The various icons in the diagram depict either unidirectional security gateways, inbound/outbound gateways, the Waterfall FLIP or Waterfall’s Application Data Control add-on. Waterfall customers generally deploy this architecture because they have decided that the risk of an online attack from the corporate network or the Internet that could affect control systems, safety systems or protection systems is unacceptable. To address these risks, customers generally use unidirectional security gateways and related products to replace one layer of firewalls in their layered, defense-in-depth network architectures. With this layer in place, the chain of infection from the Internet and through corporate networks is broken.

Most customers deploy the layer of unidirectional protections at their plants’ IT/OT interfaces, separating plant networks or unit networks, from their corporate networks. The remaining customers generally deploy the unidirectional layer to protect safety-instrumented systems and networks of protective relays from plant and control networks.

In either case, the layer of unidirectional protections separates the most important plant systems from remote attackers. This results in dramatic reductions in cyber risk and the associated cost of risk. NERC CIP and other compliance programs are also very much simplified and reduced in cost, because the strong security of unidirectional protections means far fewer compensating measures need be deployed to reach security targets, and the NERC CIP and other standards increasingly recognize this. In addition, unidirectional gateways and related technologies deployed at the IT/OT connection require far less labor to maintain and monitor than do porous firewalls.

An ever-increasing number of customers are recognizing the benefits of unidirectional security gateways and related unidirectional protective technologies in power plants. Standards authorities agree. Power plants are, after all, not expendable, either to electric utilities or to society at large.

For more information about how unidirectional security gateways reduce threats to critical infrastructure, and to download a copy of the new white paper, check out our resources page.

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