Cyber Security

Industrial control needs greater cyber security

11th July 2017
Joe Bush

The need to improve cyber security in industrial control systems is at the forefront of a report published by accreditation body CREST, claiming that a lack of standards-based technical security testing is putting industrial control environments and critical national infrastructure at risk.

The report stresses that there is a pressing need to improve cyber security in industrial control system environments to avoid future breaches that could impact critical national infrastructure. The company’s latest position paper, ‘Industrial Control Systems: Technical Security Assurance’ highlights a number of challenges and suggests that more technical security testing has a significant role to play in ensuring higher levels of security assurance are met. The full report can be downloaded below.

The report draws on the diverse views of the Industrial Control Systems (ICS) and technical security communities and proposes a model for gaining greater assurance in ICS environments. It was based on the findings of a research project - which looked to set out the main challenges and possible solutions for protecting ICS, many of which are based on legacy technologies. 

One of the key findings in the report is the absence of periodic standards-based technical security testing that is commonplace in many other industries. Because of this, ICS environment owners and operators have no objective way of knowing whether cyber risk is being adequately managed and at present there is no definitive standard for testing ICS environments that is mandated by regulatory bodies. The fact that ICS environments are rapidly changing also leads to a higher degree of exposure.

“ICS environment owners require assurances that risk is being identified, assessed and evaluated. Above all else they need to know that there are appropriate measures in place to manage and mitigate risk,” explained Ian Glover, president of CREST. “Research on the project has helped to identify the high level characteristics of a practical technical security testing approach and organisations should consider how this could add value and protection. It is clear that ICS environments are more sensitive than conventional IT environments and any penetration testing of systems needs to be planned and undertaken with a high degree of trust, skill and caution.”

“This position paper is supporting the work CREST is doing in many parts of the critical national infrastructure in the roll out of intelligence led penetration testing,” added Glover. 

The UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), commented: “We believe this paper provides a valuable contribution to the current thinking on this challenging topic and we look forward to working with CREST, as well as ICS operators and the cyber security industry in order to make the UK the safest place to live and do business online.”

The position paper is for organisations in both the private and public sector and is mainly targeted at IT managers, information security managers and technical security testing specialists. It will also be of interest to process engineers, safety specialists, business managers, procurement specialists and IT auditors.

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