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article imageConnecting legacy IT equipment could pose security risks

By Tim Sandle     Feb 20, 2018 in Technology
SCADA and ICS technology that supports much critical infrastructure is ageing. Also, this technology is becoming more connected, opening it up to new security threats. A new report considers how to minimize the risk of these systems being breached.
The report comes from analysts Threat Management Info, who specialize in assessing security threats to computer systems. The focus of the report is on critical national infrastructures. This refers to the infrastructure that keeps much of modern society operating. Included services are utilities like electricity and water; plus communications and transport systems. If these services go down, the impact on businesses and society can be enormous.
These services are at risk from operational issues, such as a faulty generator triggering a power cut. The services are also at risk from global terrorism. One modern form that should be of great concern is terrorist cyberattacks. A recent example of such an incident was with the electricity transmission grid EirGrid, which covers the Republic of Ireland being attacked by an outside hacking group in 2017.
Until recently, cybersecurity has been a lower priority than physical security. The consequence of this is that industrial control systems (ICS), like supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), are often vulnerable and insecure. The report calls on businesses to recognize this and to take appropriate actions.
Research from the Centre for Economic and Business Research and Opinium has found 56 percent of respondents who operate utility services are of the view that their IT system security could well be compromised over the next twelve months. This is because inadequate security measures are in place.
A further concern is that should hackers break into a high-level ICS or SCADA system, this could provide access to multiple plants and machinery. In the past, SCADA systems operated for standalone systems. This is, however, altering with the introduction of Internet of Things technology, and the accompanied shift in approah required in order for the new systems to be connected.
A further weakness, the analysis states, is that many SCADA systems use legacy operating systems which come with their own particular security risks, such as not having the latest security patches or network filtering.
To safeguard services businesses should implement perimeter protection and have in place real-time network monitoring and forensics, so that all network activity is monitored. This could also include user and entity behavior analytics to detect intrusion attempts or atypical behavior from employees.
More about Information technology, Computers, internet of things, Connected