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The vulnerabilities of industrial control systems and possible solutions - Essay Example

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Industrial control systems (ICS) are imperative to the quality of life that most of society shares and depends on every day. These systems regulate the electricity, food supply, medical and chemical manufacturing, as well as many other processes and utilities that are used daily…
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The vulnerabilities of industrial control systems and possible solutions
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The vulnerabilities of industrial control systems and possible solutions

Industrial control systems (ICS) are imperative to the quality of life that most of society shares and depends on every day. These systems regulate the electricity, food supply, medical and chemical manufacturing, as well as many other processes and utilities that are used daily.After September 11, 2001, the threat of terrorist attacks became a high priority on the home front (Marsh 2006). Most people worried about airplanes, metro or subway systems, or bombs, but a few realized that with the computerization of control systems in a variety of industries becoming normal operating procedures, the risk of attack was just as possible as any other probable target. In fact, some of the systems, such as nuclear plants or chemical manufacturing companies, were more apt to be targeted than others. This concern led to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to lead a 500 member forum to discuss cyber-security of the ICS regulating our lives and our country.At the conclusion of this 2004 forum, NIST produced the System Protection Profile-Industrial Control Systems (SPP-ICS) to use as guidelines and strategies to find the vulnerabilities in each facility and possible solutions. Some of the main concerns include terrorists and unfriendly governments, human error, disgruntled employees, bored teenagers, and natural disasters to name a few. However, most facilities looked only on the outside, without considering errors on the inside that could do as much damage as those external forces. (Barr, 2004; D'Amico, 2004; Marsh, 2006; NIST, 2004; NIST's process control, 2004; Wagman, 2008).
NISTS findings were based on the System Target of Evaluation and all risks and vulnerabilities are determined by this standard. The corporate leaders should look at and consider the vulnerabilities and their solutions to help identify the areas that are in need of immediate attention in their own facilities and to make the cyber-connection of the location secure. Unfortunately some do not believe there is a real threat. For example, Tom Donahue from the CIA stated that "attacks on critical infrastructure lack the necessary dramatic display that seems to be preferred by this constituency" (Marsh, 2006, p. 12). This concept may have been true five years ago, but as the world becomes more connected the disruption of electricity, water, or gas would be a fairly dramatic event for those experiencing it, and for those watching it.
Previously most facilities were separated by using their privately owned machines, hardware and methods of communication. However, with the onset of more facilities and corporations using "commercial, off-the-shelf" products the vulnerability increases (D'Amico, 2004).
The SPP-ICS provides three main areas to watch; the type of agent, method of attack, and the asset that will be affected by the attack. The agent is the insider or outsider that either maliciously or accidently causes an attack on the ICS. The vulnerabilities of attack can include, but are not limited to, protocols, unnecessary systems attached to the ICS, outside remote access to the ICS, incorrect IT architecture, lack of security controls, and lack of risk assessment upon or prior to installation of the system. The assets consist of all the systems used to control the system software and hardware and the infrastructure of the company (Barr, 2004; NIST, 2004)
When working to correct or strengthen the security of these systems, the company should look at physical items, the connectivity and if it is secure, authentication, backup and remote access as well as many other attributes of security. Understanding the ... Read More
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