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New security standards to strengthen SCADA

Industrial control systems seen as vulnerable to Internet threats

By Mark Willoughby
November 18, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The security of critical-infrastructure processes, long festering as a thorny issue in securing everything from food and water to energy and transportation, will be getting a boost from proposed standards for industrial controls.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) fostered the creation of the Process Control Security Requirements Forum in 2001. The group issued the first draft of its System Protection Profile for Industrial Control Systems (SPP ICS) in October.
"It started out as a group of a dozen end users," said Keith Stouffer, the forum's chairman and an engineer at NIST. "Now we have about 600 members. It includes everybody from the process control world," he said, such as users, academics, government officials, integrators and vendors.
The original group held about 10 meetings and "a bunch of conference calls" seeking input from the 13 critical-infrastructure groups designated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Stouffer said. Those infrastructure groups include critical civil services such as transportation, food, water utilities, electric power, pharmaceuticals and energy, and typically are large users of process control or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems.
"SCADA systems were designed around reliability and safety, not security. Now SCADA systems are becoming increasingly interconnected with IP networks and have become vulnerable to Internet threats," Stouffer said.
The group looked initially to model their security standards after the work done by the National Information Assurance Partnership, a partnership between the National Security Agency and NIST that administers the Common Criteria Evaluation and Validation Scheme for trusted systems.
"There's no other formal languages for specifying security requirements," Stouffer said, adding that the SPP "says what needs to be done, not how you have to address it."
The SPP requirements address system life-cycle security and were developed by consensus, he said. They will be periodically updated with marketplace feedback.
"It's not a NIST specification. It comes from industry. We're trying to get people to think about security from the get-go when architecting a system," Stouffer said. The SPP ICS includes such time-honored security concepts as defense in-depth, or layered security, extending from industrial process sensors and programmable logic controllers (PLC) up through the factory control and enterprise business hierarchy to the Internet.
The process control security issues addressed in the draft SPP ICS mirror security baselines found elsewhere. According to Stouffer they are:

  1. Spoofing countermeasures: To prevent masquerading attacks and to maintain confidentiality and data integrity for PLC and sensor data.
  2. Identification and authorization: For both users and data, "to make sure the data is authentic" between devices, sensors, PLCs, controllers and up the manufacturing hierarchy, including human users.
  3. Logging and auditing: To provide forensic capabilities if something goes wrong, with time and date stamps.
  4. Encryption: Voluntary encryption for sensitive or private information, where necessary.
  5. Default security: Products need to come secure from the vendor "out of the box" with security turned on by default.
  6. Physical security: To maintain the integrity of the system.
  7. Policies and procedures: To provide for secure management practices.


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