Feeds

SCADA system makers urged to tighten security

Utility providers support new guidelines

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Idaho National Laboratory and the New York State Office of Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure have teamed up with utilities and makers of distributed control system software to offer advice on how to make system security a major part of the critical infrastructure.

Later this week, the group will release the latest draft of a set of guidelines for utilities and manufacturers that offers specific requirements for suppliers of supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, SecurityFocus has learned.

The guidelines aim to elevate system security to an explicit part of negotiations between customer and supplier with the goal of making the next generation of critical infrastructure systems more secure than today's software and hardware.

"We think we can identify the common weaknesses in regards to security and also identify places where the technology's security can be tightened up," said Michael Assante, infrastructure protection strategist for Idaho National Laboratory.

"The response from vendors has been surprisingly good - this could be seen as a threatening thing, but they are prepared to provide more security."

The security issues of real-time control systems, of which the best known are SCADA systems, has become a focus of both private industry and the government as worries mount that such systems could be used as the vector for a criminal or terrorist attack.

While companies and security researchers are starting to tackle the ticklish issue of when and how to disclose vulnerabilities in such systems, cybersecurity incidents that affect such systems are rarely reported.

Because incidents and vulnerabilities are rarely talked about in the industry, three security professionals sought a better way to convince vendors to provide better security.

The three - INL's Assante, William Pelgrin from the New York State Office of Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure, and Alan Paller, director of research for the SANS Institute - decided to create a catalog of security requirements for control systems along with language that could be inserted into a supplier's contract. The initiative is funded by the Department of Homeland Security.

The guidelines, known as the Cyber Security Procurement Language for Control Systems, cover topics including the removal of unnecessary services and programs to harden the system, furnishing the minimum firewall ruleset necessary for operation so that perimeter security is not weakened, and disabling or modifying guest and other well-known accounts.

Moreover, the guidelines offer companies language to mandate that the control system maker provide guarantees of certain coding practices, a process to remediate flaws and the ability to detect malicious software running on the system.

Among the companies supporting the initiative are the New York Power Authority, the New York Independent System Operator, and ConEdison, which announced on Wednesday that power had been restored to almost all customers in Queens, NY, following a week-long outage. The company had technicians going manhole to manhole in that district because it lacked distributed data gathering systems to detect which parts of its local grid had burned out.

Detecting physical failures to avert major power outages and finding manufacturing problems are some of the reasons SCADA systems and other distributed control systems are installed. However, the creators of such systems, historically, have not paid attention to cybersecurity, said SANS' Paller.

"It's not that these guys don't know what they are doing," Paller said. "Part of it is that these systems were engineered 20 years ago, and part of it is that the engineers designed these things assuming they would be isolated. But - wham! - they are not isolated anymore."

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

More from The Register

next story
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.