Security Threats to ICS

Identifying Security Threats to Industrial Control Systems (ICS)

Industrial control systems (ICS) are crucial to modern society. After all, its the computers in them that run pretty much everything from steam turbines in power plants to all the air-conditioning in office buildings. However, the sheer value of industrial control systems makes them a hot target of cybersecurity attacks.

Massive Amount of Devices

The continued development of the Internet of Things (IoT) means that more and more devices will be part of one ecosystem. While this provides great convenience to individuals and groups alike, that amplifies the potential damage of cybersecurity threats — with potential losses amounting to billions.

The world is currently experiencing the fourth industrial revolution, aptly known as Industry 4.0. More and more operations are being digitized. Manual processes are no longer at the hands of employees. Now, the workforce can focus on more advanced tasks and improve overall productivity.

But the digitization of services and data is a double-edged sword. This increase in efficiency gives cyber attackers more reasons to execute their plans. IoT is relatively new; manufacturers still aren’t aware of all the vulnerabilities in the code. Similarly, cloud storage has been compromised multiple times.

ICS Security

Securing industrial control systems is important. These ensure that traffic management operations, water services, and transportation services are running as intended. But while it’s only physical security that was necessary before, significant changes today require cybersecurity measures as well.  

To understand the magnitude of the problem, imagine what would happen if stoplights got hacked. Heavy traffic would occur. Worse, drivers won’t know when to stop and go — increasing the chances of vehicular accidents. Police patrols and ambulances cannot pass through to attend to emergencies.

Simply put, the downtime of even a single industrial control system is disastrous; it affects the lives of thousands or even millions of people. A single security measure isn’t enough. Can VPN be hacked? The chances are not high, but it’s certainly possible. Thus, ICT security should have multiple levels.

Identifying ICS Threats

One huge problem with industrial control systems is that many of them were made way before cyber attacks came about. This means they were not built with cybersecurity in mind. Software developers and engineers can modify the systems, but they can only do so much to protect outdated ICS.

There’s also the issue with industrial attacks focusing on the erasure or stealing of intellectual property. A successful hack can wipe out the value of an entire company. Likewise, millions of people stand to have their data stolen and shared to third-party entities if industrial control systems are exploited.

Threats do not even have to come from the outside. Sometimes, it happens because of people who have ill motives working on the ICS. Cyberterrorists with resources can pay off employees and contractors to meddle with the software.  If such an inside attack occurs, basic authentication measures won’t do.

Overall, there is a great need to improve security measures for all industrial control systems. They should undergo complete digitization unless stakeholders invest in better cybersecurity. Otherwise, the consequences would be dire.