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Some New Threats To Scada Systems And The Solutions

By Author: Archer Finch
Total Articles: 68

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems are into practice for quite a long time now across the industries. This system enables collection and management of data in a huge facility with the help of a central computer, which plays a vital role in utility industry to help manage huge volume of information loads at the power plants and other such settings. However, one threat SCADA systems faces is the interconnectivity making these systems highly vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Vulnerability of SCADA systems

The conventional control systems for an electric grid used to be operated in stand-alone environments without any communication links. There were no connections to any external IT units. However, with the introduction of SCADA over a decade ago, things have changed largely. The major change had been the interoperability between the power systems and computers in order to share data for better monitoring and control.

So, along with the computer and communication network interconnection, there came the potential for cyber attacks too on these systems. As such an attack can have significant negative impacts on the systems, it is essential to ensure security of the SCADA systems.

The modern SCADA systems are very complex, connected, and largely digital. The operators require typical data to be transferred between the industrial systems and external networks. So, the possibility for cyber intrusion also needed to be considered while installing SCADA systems and preventive measures have to be taken

Industrial Systems and risks

The computerised equipment which are used in data collection and control in an industrial processes are now deployed at almost all areas of critical national infrastructure with some examples as;

Nuclear Power Plants & Reprocessing Facilities

 Chemical Plants
 Oil Refineries
 Mail Sorting Offices
 Food Production
 Gas Processing Facilities
 Pharmaceutical Production
 Railway signaling systems
 LPG Tankers
 Mining and Geology
 Distribution Centers and Ports
 Motor Vehicle Production Facilities
 Wind turbines etc.

Considering its criticality, there are various security measures to be administered by being compliant to the industrial protocols to ensure maximum protection.

Industrial protocols

The industrial protocol for SCADA system administration is basically a code of conduct with a set of defined procedures to be genuinely followed. Given that complexity of Industrial IT environment with a custom set of hardware and a range of functionality, there exists a wide range of customised industrial protocols which are usually vendor specific. Some of the major measures as below

 Staff undertaking

Unauthorised actions and interference by staff needed to be strictly prevented with appropriate staff undertaking. This is not only important for data security, but also for the personal security of the operators and others who are unskilled about SCADA based systems operations.

 Zoning, segregation, and protection of the industrial networks

SCADA is an interconnected environment, so the need to access the data generated in real-time arena causes several challenges. This has to be addressed with well structured implementation of SCADA with proper zoning, segregation, and protection modalities.

The other essentials of SCADA security protocols include understanding the business risks, ensuring the regulatory compliance, situations awareness, forensic readiness, incidental response, proper cyber incident report and investigation etc.

Hey myself Archer Finch. Even though I took extra care about my systems, but still it was more prone to hacking. With the introduction of the SCADA systems, my system is now very much safe from all sorts of threats, as most of the SCADA are connected to web based portals or products.

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