SCADA Security Defined
SCADA security is the practice of protecting supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) networks, a common framework of control systems used in industrial operations. These networks are responsible for providing automated control and remote human management of essential commodities and services such as water, natural gas, electricity and transportation to millions of people. They can also be used to improve the efficiencies and quality in other less essential (but some would say very important!) real-world processes such as snowmaking for ski resorts and beer brewing. SCADA is one of the most common types of industrial control systems (ICS).
These networks, just like any other network, are under threat from cyber-attacks that could bring down any part of the nation's critical infrastructure quickly and with dire consequences if the right security is not in place. Capital expenditure is another key concern; SCADA systems can cost an organization from tens of thousands to millions of dollars. For these reasons, it is essential that organizations implement robust SCADA security measures to protect their infrastructure and the millions of people that would be affected by disruption caused by an external attack or internal error.
SCADA Security vs. Traditional Security
SCADA security has evolved dramatically in recent years. Before computers, the only way to monitor a SCADA network was to deploy several people to each station to report back on the state of each system. In busier stations, technicians were stationed permanently to manually operate the network and communicate over telephone wires.
It wasn't until the introduction of the local area network (LAN) and improvements in system miniaturization that we started to see advances in SCADA development such as the distributed SCADA network. Next came networked systems that were able to communicate over a wide area network (WAN) and connect many more components together. Progress is a good thing, but it often comes at a price, and the SCADA network was no exception. What were once systems that used relatively harmless proprietary protocols evolved into internet protocol (IP)-based systems that inherited all the vulnerabilities associated with the IP protocol.
SCADA Network Security Threats
From local companies to federal governments, every business or organization that works with SCADA systems is vulnerable to SCADA security threats. These threats can have wide-reaching effects on both the economy and the community. Specific threats to SCADA networks include the following:
Individuals or groups with malicious intent could bring a SCADA network to its knees. By gaining access to key SCADA components, hackers could unleash chaos on an organization that can range from a disruption in services to cyber warfare.
Malware, including viruses, spyware and ransomware can pose a risk to SCADA systems. While malware may not be able to specifically target the network itself, it can still pose a threat to the key infrastructure that helps to manage the SCADA network. This includes mobile SCADA applications that are used to monitor and manage SCADA systems.
Where hackers are usually motivated by sordid gain, terrorists are driven by the desire to cause as much mayhem and damage as possible.
Insider threats can be just as damaging as external threats. From human error to a disgruntled employee or contractor, it is essential that SCADA security addresses these risks.
Peace-of-Mind Security for SCADA Networks
Managing today's SCADA networks can be a challenge without the right security precautions in place. Many networks are still without the necessary detection and monitoring systems and this leaves them vulnerable to attack. Because SCADA network attacks exploit both cyber and physical vulnerabilities, it is critical to align cybersecurity measures accordingly.
Next Generation Firewall (NGFW) from Forcepoint has been rigorously tested to comply with major government certification requirements, responds to incidents in minutes and decrypts traffic while safeguarding privacy.