Last updated at Fri, 29 Dec 2023 16:21:22 GMT

Written by Elad Ben-Meir, CEO SCADAfence, a Honeywell company.

In today's digital era, where industries are increasingly reliant on advanced technologies, safeguarding critical infrastructure against cyber threats has become paramount. The convergence of operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) has ushered in new efficiencies but has also exposed vulnerabilities. This article explores the pivotal role of Vulnerability Management and Detection and Response (VM/DR) in the realm of Industrial Cybersecurity.

Introduction to Industrial Cybersecurity

In an interconnected world, the importance of cybersecurity cannot be overstated. In industrial settings, where the consequences of cyberattacks can extend beyond data breaches to impact physical safety and operational continuity, cybersecurity is a top priority. This article delves into the significance of VM/DR in fortifying industrial cybersecurity defenses.

Vulnerability Management and Detection and Response (VM/DR) in Industrial Context

VM/DR are not mere buzzwords, but a proactive strategy to combat the ever-evolving cyber threats facing industrial organizations and the small talent pool from which they hire. It entails continuous monitoring, rapid threat detection, and efficient incident response while understanding the industrial processes these technologies control. In the context of industrial operations, VM/DR takes on added significance as it safeguards critical processes from disruption.

The Core Components of Industrial VM/DR

A successful VM/DR program in an industrial setting comprises several key components:

  • Real-time threat monitoring: This involves continuous surveillance of network traffic and system activities to detect anomalies and potential threats.
  • Incident detection and analysis: Rapid identification and thorough analysis of security incidents are crucial for timely response and mitigation.
  • Incident response and remediation: An effective response strategy is vital to minimize the impact of cyber incidents and promptly restore normal operations.

These components work in tandem to provide a comprehensive security shield against industrial cyber threats.

Utilizing SCADAfence’s real-time passive threat monitoring alongside Rapid7’s InsightVM and InsightIDR products allows for industrial–focused threats to be detected, analyzed, responded to, and remediated in a timely manner.

Industrial-Specific Threats and Vulnerabilities

In the industrial landscape, cyber threats go beyond traditional IT concerns. Attack vectors extend to Industrial Control Systems (ICS), which govern critical processes. Vulnerabilities unique to OT systems, such as legacy equipment and proprietary protocols, pose additional challenges. Understanding these threats is essential for effective protection.

The Landscape of Industrial Threats and Vulnerabilities

Industrial systems are the backbone of modern society, controlling everything from power grids to manufacturing processes. With connectivity becoming ubiquitous, these systems have become prime targets for malicious actors.

Reference: According to a report by IBM X-Force, attacks on industrial systems increased by over 2000% in 2020, highlighting the growing threat landscape in the industrial sector.

Legacy Systems and Proprietary Protocols

Many industrial environments still rely on legacy systems that were not designed with modern cybersecurity in mind. These aging systems often run on proprietary protocols, making them vulnerable to exploitation.

Reference: The Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) has noted an increase in vulnerabilities related to legacy systems and proprietary protocols in their annual reports.

Human Error and Insider Threats

Human error remains a significant factor in industrial incidents. Insider threats, whether intentional or unintentional, can have catastrophic consequences in industrial settings.

Reference: A study by Ponemon Institute found that 57% of industrial organizations surveyed had experienced at least one insider threat incident in the past year.

Supply Chain Vulnerabilities

Industrial systems rely on a complex network of suppliers and vendors. Weak links in the supply chain can introduce vulnerabilities that adversaries could exploit.

Reference: The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has issued alerts about supply chain vulnerabilities in industrial control systems.

IoT and Edge Devices

The proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and edge computing has expanded the attack surface in industrial environments. These devices are often inadequately secured.

Reference: A report from Kaspersky highlights a 46% increase in attacks on IoT devices in the first half of 2020, with many incidents affecting industrial sectors.

Ransomware Targeting Critical Infrastructure

Ransomware attacks have evolved to target critical infrastructure, disrupting essential services and demanding hefty ransoms.

Reference: The Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack in May 2021 brought widespread attention to the threat of ransomware against critical infrastructure.

Integration with Existing Workflows/Playbooks

VM/DR is not a standalone solution but a complement to existing industrial workflows and/or playbooks. It bridges the gap between IT and OT, breaking down silos that often hinder effective cybersecurity. By integrating VM/DR seamlessly into existing processes, organizations can enhance their ability to promptly respond to threats. Having detailed playbooks with key operational Points of Contact (POC) helps to reduce dead time when dealing with a business and process interruption inside of an industrial process.

Implementing response and action plans within the current organization’s workflows helps analysts better communicate in the operational verbiage and expedites remediations directly in the field. This alleviates IT's need for Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability (CIA) and supports OT's requirements for Availability, Integrity, Confidentiality (AIC).

Measuring Success with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Success in industrial VM/DR can be quantified through various KPIs:

  • Time to Detect (TTD): The speed at which threats are identified
  • Time to Respond (TTR): The efficiency of incident response
  • Incident Resolution Rate: The effectiveness of mitigation efforts

These KPIs provide a tangible measure of an organization's cybersecurity resilience.

Collaboration between IT and OT

The collaboration between IT and OT teams is pivotal in industrial cybersecurity. VM/DR serves as a unifying force, facilitating communication and coordination between these traditionally separate domains. This collaboration is vital for the timely identification and mitigation of threats.

Compliance and Regulatory Considerations

Industrial organizations are subject to various cybersecurity regulations and standards such as the North American Electric Reliability Corporation Critical Infrastructure Protection (NERC CIP). NERC CIP regulatory compliance is a set of mandatory cybersecurity standards and requirements designed to safeguard the North American power grid's critical infrastructure.

These regulations are a response to the increasing cybersecurity threats faced by the energy sector. NERC CIP compliance mandates that electric utilities and power generation companies establish and maintain robust cybersecurity programs, including measures such as access controls, incident response planning, and regular security assessments. The primary goal of NERC CIP is to ensure the reliable operation of the electric grid while minimizing vulnerabilities to cyberattacks, thus safeguarding the continuous supply of electricity to homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure across North America. Compliance with NERC CIP is essential to maintain the security and resilience of the energy sector in the face of evolving cybersecurity threats.

Implementing a compliance governance portal is a strategic move for organizations seeking to streamline and centralize their compliance management efforts. Such a portal serves as a centralized platform where compliance policies, procedures, and documentation can be efficiently stored, accessed, and monitored. It facilitates real-time tracking of compliance activities, automates workflow processes, and provides a comprehensive view of the organization's adherence to regulatory requirements.

This not only enhances transparency and accountability but also simplifies reporting and auditing. The implementation of a compliance governance portal empowers organizations to proactively manage risk, ensure regulatory adherence, and respond swiftly to compliance-related challenges, ultimately fostering a culture of compliance throughout the organization. VM/DR plays a crucial role in helping organizations meet compliance requirements, providing assurance to regulators and stakeholders.

Securing the Future

In the face of relentless cyber threats, mastering industrial cybersecurity is not a luxury – it's a necessity. VM/DR is the linchpin that empowers organizations to fortify their defenses, protect critical infrastructure, and ensure operational continuity in an increasingly digital world.

As digital transformation continues, industrial VM/DR represents a proactive, adaptive, and collaborative approach to safeguarding the backbone of our society. It's time for industrial organizations to embrace VM/DR and secure the future.