We want to look at the cybersecurity policy affecting ICS and SCADA in this blog. A huge number of government organisation and the companies in the private sector are using Industrial Control Systems (ICS) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA). Keeping them secure is a major challenge from hackers.
There have been multiple breaches past year for both the systems such as the ransomware attacks, etc. To keep them secure, there is a cybersecurity policy affecting ICS and SCADA systems. The companies need to implement them to protect themselves.
How are cybersecurity policy affecting ICS and SCADA: What is ICS?
ICS stands for Industrial Control System which means the software and the hardware of the organisation are unified over the network to aid the critical infrastructure.
In the current scenario, the ICS is mostly being used in every sector such as logistics, energy, manufacturing etc. The different types of Industrial Control Systems are as follows:
- PLC’s (Programmable Logic Controllers)
- DCS (Distributed Control Systems)
- HMI (Human Machine Interface)
- SCADA (Supervisory Control and data acquisition)
- IEDs (Intelligent Electronic Devices)
Benefits of Industrial Control System are as follows:
Increased Health and Safety
The first and the foremost benefit of the ICS is the health and safety of the worker of the organisation. With the help of the ICS, the company can keep a check on the environment of the site which gives the organisation advantage and helps them to keep them safe.
Protection of assets
One of the major benefits of ICS is the protection of the assets. Assets of an organisation can be shields with prevention.
Another benefit of the ICS is that with ICS the threat can be minimised due to the failure of any of the systems. For example, any one of the power stations suffers from a power surge, an ICS system can detect this surge and alerts the system. With the alerts, the staff can be warned and can be isolated from that the power station.
How are cybersecurity policy affecting ICS and SCADA: What is SCADA?
SCADA stands for Supervisory Control and acquisition is a combination of the software and hardware machines that permits the companies to achieve the following
- All the events of the machines can be documented in a log file
- Just like a SIEM, all the data can be processed real-time
- The process can easily be controlled at distant locations
SCADA systems assist in keeping up the level of efficiency and helps in keeping the low downtime of the systems.
Benefits of Scada systems are as follows:
To prevent irrelevant alarms from being received, the SCADA systems should be adjustable. The slippery slope of operator ignorance towards all alarms is caused by getting alerts for any little thing that occurs in the network. Alarms of the incident should only be sent to staff who are on duty. A good practice is to configure the alarms and build an elevation checklist as per the structure of the business.
It’s very crucial to have notification versatility, but sometimes it’s not enough. Sophisticated SCADA systems allow for the configuration of automatic actions to be performed by control relays in the event of an alarm. These automated activities can be specified so that the Remote Terminal Unit (RTU) can trigger the control relay automatically when a certain situation occurs.
SCADA systems often capture data from the processes and remote equipment. To assess the health and performance of the network equipment, comprehensive reports can be produced and used. It also enables protection to be ensured and long-term patterns established. Normally, it goes hand-in-hand with diligent maintenance and helps to understand whether or not the remote network functions, helping the company make more informed decisions.
How are cybersecurity policy affecting ICS and SCADA: Threats and Challenges for ICS and SCADA Systems
Power networks, economies and social health are at risk from cyberattacks on vital energy resources. For a prolonged period, the loss of power over a vast area will have serious consequences on entities such as multinational companies, small and medium enterprises, governments and larger communities.
Managing the possibility of a significant outage in the energy sector has historically meant solving many major problems such as component failure or cold weather by comprehensive mitigation and disaster recovery plans.
The electricity and the energy sector has faced a massive and disruptive digital transformation of its infrastructure over the few past decades, which has been necessary throughout the pandemic to ensure the stability and continuity of power supplies. The degree of interactivity and integration of operational technology and information technology has been amplified by these digital technologies, and the cyber-attack surface is being extended for cybercriminals to penetrate the secure environment which consists of the cybersecurity policies affecting ICS and SCADA systems.
Cyber threatening actors with at least three distinct agendas are currently confronting the electricity market.
- Electricity information technology network infrastructure has been attacked by organised crime groups seeking financial gain with the help of ransomware attacks.
- Cyber espionage meaning the hacker group infiltrate the network to gain confidential information.
- Misinformation activities have been carried out by other actors. Advanced Persistent Threats are known to target network infrastructure of the Industrial Control System that aims to conduct preliminary data gathering or disrupt the entire network.
SCADA and ICS breaches are not only normal, but they have severe consequences as well. Operational technology networks manage and monitor the organisation entire processes, unlike conventional information technology networks, where a compromise can have potentially catastrophic results.
Dragos saw a rise in the operation of cyber threats targeting the industrial sector, while this industry has not been exposed to the kinds of complex, disruptive incidents involving the energy industry by the security company. As per the current trends, the greatest threat to the manufacturing industry is ransomware with ICS focused capabilities. It is very necessary to implement the cybersecurity policy affecting ICS and SCADA systems in the organisation.
How are cybersecurity policy affecting ICS and SCADA: Everchanging trends towards ICS and SCADA systems
Industrial Control Systems have become a common goal of cybercrime groups funded by the state such as the hacker groups APT 28, APT 37 etc. Cybersecurity around ICS networks is seen as fragile and easily breached by them. Few ICS programmes have been designed and implemented by IT agencies, cybersecurity has not been taken into account by these companies. These vulnerabilities make it possible for attackers to steal intellectual property, instal malware like ransomware, and steal all the valuable information from these companies. Due to the cost of the cybersecurity policy affecting ICS and SCADA systems, companies don’t tend to invest in them. 
This has contributed to a change in how ICS solutions are applied. 67 per cent state that the ICS implementation is now being carried out by a multidisciplinary team. Teams now include IT, ICS, protection and development individuals. At installation time, this has improved cybersecurity, but there are still ongoing issues. Those problems have impacted the speed at which vulnerabilities are treated.
How are cybersecurity policy affecting ICS and SCADA: Recommended Cybersecurity Policies affecting the ICS and SCADA systems
Many cybersecurity policies affect ICS and SCADA, some of them are as follows but not limited to:
- To define all properties, links and interactions between information technology and operational technology networks, perform design assessments. To limit traffic among enclaves, Demilitarized Zones should be created which isolated the network from the real world for the company. Critically analysis and restriction should be established, and only necessary data should travel across commercial and ICS systems.
- To detect possible vulnerabilities that could interrupt operational efficiency, maintain awareness of network interrelationships and perform crown jewel research.
- Ensure that business network server backups are retained and test backups during simulations of disaster recovery. an emergency management plan should be made which will be related to the ICS and execute tabletop exercises to learn how to manage multiple incidents at the time of chaos.
- To identify suspicious threat behaviours, signs, and anomalies, track outbound communications from ICS networks. To protect from them, knowing suspicious activities demonstrated by malicious activity groups is important.
- Identify and mark vital ICS tools to assist with identification and tracking. By detecting malicious activities against asset types, Dragos Asset Detection enables those analytics to work.
- Verify that vital network resources are well along with Office 365 or any service the company is using and its networking servers and that administrative access to networking machines is as limited as possible.
How are cybersecurity policy affecting ICS and SCADA: Conclusion
Cybersecurity policy affecting ICS and SCADA systems are very important as the policies will serve as the baseline between the hackers and security mechanism of the organisation. Without the correct cybersecurity policy used or placed in the company will always attract hackers and they will steal the companies data or the company will often suffer a ransomware attack. With the appropriate policies designed and implemented under the NIST cybersecurity framework, NIST SCADA framework and NIST ICS framework, the organisation will be more secure and feel more confident about their ICS and SCADA machines.
- X. Fan, K. Fan, Y. Wang and R. Zhou, “Overview of cyber-security of an industrial control system,” 2015 International Conference on Cyber Security of Smart Cities, Industrial Control System and Communications (SSIC), Shanghai, 2015, pp. 1-7, DOI: 10.1109/SSIC.2015.7245324.