Industrial networks: The best approach to counter threats

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The arrival of industry 4.0 has brought great advances for production processes.

With automation and artificial intelligence, both common factories and critical infrastructures can optimize their productivity and ensure cost reduction.

However, the new revolution in the secondary sector brings with it a challenge: security breaches in industrial networks.

 

These vulnerabilities in industrial systems provide a new niche for cybercriminals. In this sense, it is expected that in the coming years, attacks on factories and intelligent buildings will become increasingly frequent and lethal. In this case, the attackers could execute vaporworm malware or APT tactics.

While the challenge in cybersecurity is big, the advantages of industry 4.0 are much wider. Thus, it is necessary to apply a methodology capable of strengthening industrial networks without hindering the efficiency of new means of production.

The new reality of industrial networks

Prior to industry 4.0, industrial networks remained isolated from other corporate networks through proprietary protocols. In this way, digital environments for production activities were safer and virtually impenetrable. But with the advent of new technological demands, companies had to connect all their administrative networks to obtain more agile workflows. This exposes Windows servers, TCP/IP network protocols, as well as PLC device control systems and electro-mechanical software such as SCADA and SCI.

In most cases,  repetitive tasks and default settings generate new vulnerabilities in critical systems. All these silos have their origin in the lack of control of the privileged access and weak security standards.

 

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However, when it comes to face this problem, the best strategy is to execute an unified early response plan; bearing in mind that vulnerabilities in industrial networks need a different treatment than breaches in corporate networks.

In this regard, it is advisable to have an industrial cybersecurity office within the IT department, as it facilitates synchronized response to any event.

 

In addition, you should consider the following key points to counter industrial threats efficiently:

What should you protect?

Vulnerability prioritization is one of the most important steps to prevent high severity attacks. In this way, it will be easier for you to set adequate resources to prevent break-ins that could stop the production site.

The most critical assets are production line robots, IoTs and OT network devices; you must also pay special attention to physical security devices such as camera circuits, biometrics systems, and alarms.

 Attackers’ behavior

vulnerabilidades en industria 4.0

Cybercriminals are more predictable than they seem. Various reports indicate that attackers have a 7-day advantage to discover threats in the systems; they also tend to make the first move before raising suspicions.

With the time factor on their side, cybercriminals will try to work on the next steps:

 

 

  • Obtaining information: It is the process in which the attacker identifies a new victim. The victim often belong to a sector of high profitability for cybercrime, such as industrial or financial. In addition to this, the attacker can collect information from public vulnerabilities on specific technologies.
  • Systems scanning: The attacker will scan the entire infrastructure for data from connected servers, open ports, obsolete versions of applications, vulnerable operating systems, IP addresses, and more.
  • Remote access: At this point, the vulnerability is exploited  to gain access to the entire network. In this way, the attacker will enter as quietly as possible. Therefore, it may be weeks before the breach detection. At the same time, new vulnerabilities can be created to ensure regular access for the offender.
  • Elimination of fingerprints: The attacker completes his objective and proceeds to erase all traces of his identity. Administrator accounts are usually used to delete activity histories and changes.

A cybersecurity approach for industry 4.0

Knowing the behavior of cybercriminals and identifying priority vulnerabilities will help you execute preventive strategies, as well as be useful to stop ongoing attacks.

These are the pillars of a cybersecurity methodology for the secondary sector:

Shielding systems

  • Increase the frequency of Vulnerability scanning. Many companies do it monthly or weekly, but industries require evaluations 24 hours a day.
  • Vulnerability disclosure is the primary resource for attackers. That’s why companies need to accelerate response time to close security gaps. The best approach, in this case, is the implementation of an IC/CD model. This can automate the delivery of services and the execution of threat mitigation measures.
  • Prioritize public vulnerabilities and look for security gaps considering the current context of the sector. At the same time, constant maintenance and updating of hardware and software are recommended.

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  • Implement IEC-62443 protocol to plant processes. This protocol standardizes the safety of industrial plants from different perspectives: it defines compliance metrics for industrial automation and control systems, and establishes standards for process life cycle; it also has a guide for the management of updates and the integration of new devices.

 

At GB Advisors we have the necessary cybersecurity tools for large companies and industries. Contact us for consultation.

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