SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) networks are comprised of computers and applications designated to perform integral functions to provide critical services from a variety of industries. Everything from gas pipelines, water, and even Internet connectivity are contained within SCADA to improve function and maintain consistent operating levels. SCADA networks greatly benefit many industries, allowing access to commodities and services across vast amounts of land, and nowadays are widely used. With this level of popularity and dependence, SCADA systems pose a unique security risk with very high consequences if compromised. Now, how is this accomplished, especially for such a large industrial network?
To begin securing such a system, you must understand what connections are taking place at any given time to the SCADA network, and identify them. Conduct a thorough analysis of all SCADA network connections, determining their necessity and potential risk level. This can include physical access capabilities and network access, along with what the uses are for all information transmitted within the SCADA network. Once each connection is identified and ranked, begin disconnecting the unnecessary connections to the network.
For example, does the remote SCADA network of one remote region absolutely require Internet connectivity for every level of the infrastructure’s network? If highly secure areas where data is never sent or received still has connectivity, this would be an excellent place to start deciding if it continues to need this. If connectivity is still needed even in such high-risk areas, establishing designated “safe zones” in the form of network DMZs to keep necessary connections away from the sensitive SCADA areas.
Establishing the collection and in-depth analysis of data and real-time status of control equipment – from pumps to intake and output levels – SCADA networks can begin to understand what areas transmit the most amount of information, and what priority their security must be. Locating critical SCADA network points and setting up IDS (Intrusion Detection Systems) to alert personnel should a breach occur is one of the many steps that a SCADA network can take to remain alert of what threats are happening within their systems.
Remove or disable any unnecessary processes that the network does not use on a regular basis or despite repeated attempts, cannot be successful secured. Examples for a SCADA network would be processes such as meter reading/billing, email services, and Bluetooth capabilities. This coupled with IDS controls and safeguards can assist in mitigating SCADA network risks.
Despite all these measures, cybersecurity in SCADA networks is not guaranteed and reliance solely on the few safeguards in place will not promise a bulletproof system. Cybersecurity continuously changes per the trends in malicious software and hacking attacks, so keeping the security team and protocols up to date, and routinely review is vital to having a healthy security system in place. Technology is always changing, and as more infrastructurally important systems integrate, from electronic gas pipeline monitoring to water system regulation, the need to keep these networks secure no longer becomes an option.