CyBlog: This Week in Cyber Security

This week in the world of cyber, the top predictions of what will be trending in 2017 are flooding the web. Talks of industry and utility hacks, scares of increasingly complex malware attacks and pleads of a more stringent cybersecurity system are more prevalent than ever.

Surprise! Your Operational Technology is connected to the Internet

Discussions of the Ukraine power grid hack have been continuing in the news since before the holidays, with constant updates on the follow-up attack and how they’re connected, as well as what this could mean for the industrial and utility world as thousands were left without power.

Kiev (pictured here) is the capital of Ukraine, a victim in one of multiple malware attacks on their power grid.

Kiev (pictured here) is the capital of Ukraine, a victim in one of multiple malware attacks on their power grid.

Security Week, an internet and enterprise security news and analysis publication, predicts that cyber extortion will further target utility plants due to industrial network air-gaps. This makes it easy for cyber attackers to infiltrate SCADA and ICS systems, and possibly PLCs.

The publication also says that due to the increase in interest of interconnectivity and lack of protection within systems, ICS networks are becoming more complex and more exposed to external threats.

Read more on assessing your SCADA system and the upgrading process in our free white paper. 

Cybersecurity and Malware in the World of OT

With the growing and continuing risk of ransomware infiltrating company systems, cybersecurity is even more of a hot-topic for companies than it was in 2016.

ransomware

A possible pop-up screen after malware has distributed into a system.

eWeek, a news publications specializing in the IT industry analysis and technology news,
reported that co-founder and CEO of Keeper Security Darren Guccione predicts small and medium-sized businesses will be more at risk for cyberattacks and data breaches in 2017.

Ransomware isn’t going away. In fact, it’s going to get more effective as hackers become better at embedding the viruses into emails through phishing, a fraudulent practice of sending emails within a company in an effort to steal personal and company information.

As a result, he recommends increasing investment in security defenses to be protected against these increasing threats.

Another prediction from eWEEK is hacks will be getting increasingly more complex. Rather than just single threat vectors, hybrid attacks will be more common. What does this mean? Hackers will be able to infiltrate your system, and then hide their tracks. By using a combination of phishing to deliver malware and then launching a Denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, the system is disrupted and suspends all services connected to the internet. This compromises various systems and is often infected using a Trojan virus — a type of vicious malware disguised within a user system as software.

Lansing

Cybercriminals hacked into and compromised a utility in Lansing, Michigan, at the end of 2016.

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The Dangers of Outdated Operational Technology

Speaking of DDoS attacks, Lloyds Banking Group, Britain’s largest mortgage lender, was hit with a viral attack on Jan. 11.

According to Reuters, the bank was “bombarded” with copious amounts of traffic from various systems to overloaded the server. This resulted in temporarily freezing customers out of access to their online accounts.

This comes just months after Britain’s first large cyber bank heist in November when Tesco Banking was hacked. Hackers took funds from 20,000 accounts, and the bank halted all online transactions, and amounted to 2.5 million pounds, or $3 million, in losses.

Shortly after, the European Union (EU) decided it was necessary to boost security and is considering an EU-wide stress test within the industry.

Unfortunately, EU banks “rely on a digital infrastructure that is rigid and outdated,” according to Reuters, and is considering new technologies in an effort to boost security.

Is your SCADA system outdated? Using outdated technology can be extremely harmful towards your internal infrastructure and leaves you at a greater risk for cybercrime.

6 Reasons You Need to Get Serious About Industrial Mobility Now

The use of mobile devices at work isn’t exactly new — people have been thumbing through lists of emails on mobile devices since RIM released the first email-ready BlackBerry in 2003.

What’s changing is the kind of data that workers, specifically operators, are getting on their smart devices.

Automation professionals in water and wastewater facilities, manufacturing plants, oil and gas companies, and many other sectors have the ability to pull detailed, real-time data from their control systems.

Today, information packed with key performance indicators is streaming in real-time to worker’s smartphones. Water and wastewater treatment administrators across the country are analyzing pump station data on their iPhones. Operators on the plant floor can hear their machines talking to them by analyzing KPIs on their iPads. The “Garden Hose of Information” of the past that sent endless streams of data has been replaced by personalized, finely-tuned dashboards that display usable, accurate, data anytime and anywhere.

And it doesn’t stop there. Modern industrial mobility packages allow considerable control of operations on the fly. Plugging directly into your SCADA on your iPad and making changes is a reality.

While the jury is still out as to the extent to which this will help operators become more efficient, most agree that at the very least, it has its benefits. To enable an empowered, data-driven workforce through use of mobile technology is to create the next generation of operator.

“Automation companies that adopt consumer electronics technologies early will have an edge,” Erik Nieves, technology director at the Motoman Robotics Division of Yaskawa America told AutomationWorld.com. “The robotics industry isn’t large enough to drive technology, we have to use advances made in other areas.”

Industrial mobility isn’t without it’s challenges, key among them being security. Workers are walking around with — and taking home — electronic devices that display sensitive company data. Some companies, according to research, are lagging behind their “plugged-in” workforce and don’t have solutions in place to head off security issues.

This document is designed to offer a few reasons why you should get serious about mobility in your operations, how mobile devices can help operators, and why security isn’t a part of the mobility conversation you can avoid just because it’s difficult.

The use of mobile devices at work isn’t exactly new — people have been thumbing through lists of emails on mobile devices since RIM released the first email-ready BlackBerry in 2003.

What’s changing is the kind of data that workers, specifically operators, are getting on their smart devices.

Automation professionals in water and wastewater facilities, manufacturing plants, oil and gas companies, and many other sectors have the ability to pull detailed, real-time data from their control systems.

Today, information packed with key performance indicators is streaming in real-time to worker’s smartphones. Water and wastewater treatment administrators across the country are analyzing pump station data on their iPhones. Operators on the plant floor can hear their machines talking to them by analyzing KPIs on their iPads. The “Garden Hose of Information” of the past that sent endless streams of data has been replaced by personalized, finely-tuned dashboards that display usable, accurate, data anytime and anywhere.

And it doesn’t stop there. Modern industrial mobility packages allow considerable control of operations on the fly. Plugging directly into your SCADA on your iPad and making changes is a reality.

While the jury is still out as to the extent to which this will help operators become more efficient, most agree that at the very least, it has its benefits. To enable an empowered, data-driven workforce through use of mobile technology is to create the next generation of operator.

“Automation companies that adopt consumer electronics technologies early will have an edge,” Erik Nieves, technology director at the Motoman Robotics Division of Yaskawa America told AutomationWorld.com. “The robotics industry isn’t large enough to drive technology, we have to use advances made in other areas.”

Industrial mobility isn’t without it’s challenges, key among them being security. Workers are walking around with — and taking home — electronic devices that display sensitive company data. Some companies, according to research, are lagging behind their “plugged-in” workforce and don’t have solutions in place to head off security issues.

This document is designed to offer a few reasons why you should get serious about mobility in your operations, how mobile devices can help operators, and why security isn’t a part of the mobility conversation you can avoid just because it’s difficult.

1. If Your Operators Don’t Have a Smartphone Now, They Will Soon.

According to Nielsen, 54.9% of mobile users in the U.S. owned smartphones as of June 2012. This was an increase Nielsen’s February numbers which counted smartphone users in for nearly half of the mobile plans.

Nielson reported that the growth was attributed to a spike in smartphone purchases. In the second quarter of 2012, 2 out of 3 Americans who picked up a new mobile device opted for a smartphone over the standard cell phone. If growth continues at this rate, smartphones could account for 70 percent of all U.S. mobile devices by 2013.

Famed Internet analyst Mary Meeker predicted by the third quarter of 2013, global smartphone plus tablet install base will surpass the install base of the PC. Meeker suggested also in 2013 that mobile Internet usage would surpass fixed Internet usage.

Translation: Smartphones are replacing standard phones and if your operators don’t have them now, they soon will and they’ll be using them.

And it’s not just looking cool with company data on your iPad – industry experts say the use of mobile devices will soon be integral to productivity.

According to Information Week’s Nov. 2012 Mobile Device Management and Security Survey, 9 out of 10 tech professionals surveyed say smartphones and tablets will play a key role in the business productivity in the coming years.

2. The Operator is Evolving Too – And Mobility Will Take It To The Next Level

In the past, operators needed to have deep knowledge of both the process and machine operations, as well as of the systems that enable the process. Knowledge was handed down from previous operators and, for better or for worse, the new operator would function based on that training. The operator learned a role and completed his or her daily tasks based on that training.

But that’s not the case anymore.

Technology came on the scene and gave operators the chance to present data, collaborate on ideas. Software tools provided operators with the ability to make effective decisions quickly and easily when it came to understanding and troubleshooting routine and upset conditions.

The streamlined team-based approach to operations found operators being cycled through many jobs to enable knowledge sharing and continued professional growth.

Suddenly, the modern worker is a multi-faceted, data-empowered, critical facet of the process that is able to leverage data from many sources, make objective decisions based on complex, real-time information, and understand the system to solve problems quickly and effectively.

The next step is mobilizing the data that drives the next generation of operator. Equipping this operator with a mobile device takes it to the next level.

Today’s mobile technology can send actionable, real-time data to operator based on their role that is also pinpointed to their location based on geo-technology. Operators responding to an alarm no longer have to make independent decisions based solely on training – they can review electronic standard operating procedures on their smartphones.

And while nothing can replace training and knowledge passed on from veteran staff, today’s operator can, at the very least, be better armed to face the challenges of the day with solid information.

3. Mobility Let’s You Get Away From Your Desk and Get Moving

If you’re like most plant superintendents, managers, and supervisors, you don’t spend every minute of your day behind the desk. You’re constantly on the move, walking the plant floor, spending time in the field and working shoulder-to-shoulder with your team. So how useful is data if it’s locked up in your computer when you’re on the move? Moreover, how useful are you if you’re stuck behind your desk?

Mobility changes all of that. By linking your system to your mobile device (which you are probably carrying in your pocket right now anyway) you can see what’s happening in your plant while you are going about your busy day.

Modern mobile software dashboard and smart information presentation turns off the garden hose of data from your SCADA and present dashboards with key performance indicators that apply to you and let you drill into historical data for on-the-fly trending.

Getting a call about an alarm in the field is one thing. Heading to the problem area and pulling up the SCADA system on your iPad to see predictive information is quite another.

4. Get Alerts on the Road, Fix Problems in the Field

Imagine you’re traveling down the road and you get a notification on your smartphone. It’s your SCADA system alerting you to a serious problem at one of the off-site locations. Good news is that facility is right up the road.

Now imagine being able to get user-based real-time data based on location, role, and asset location, drill into your SCADA, get real-time data, and respond to – and resolve – the alarm, all from your smart device, all while safely parked on the side of the road. That’s mobility.

Today’s modern mobile technology takes advantage of your smartphone’s inherent GPS capabilities and delivers real-time, actionable data about devices within your proximity. This kind of solution uses situational awareness technology that combines criticality of situation with location and proximity to ensure that the user has the information they need, saving time and cost.

Going mobile gives you the ability to run your plant from anywhere in your plant. By going mobile, you can respond to real-time data made for faster, more focused reactions.

5. Stop Pouring Over Reports – Get Alerted When Something Important Happens.

Unless you are analyzing data for historical trends, spending time each day sifting through report after report of data can be a costly waste of time because no amount of searching is going to change the fact that nothing is actually happening that is worthwhile.

Today’s automation software allows you to define important and let you know when “important” happens. Baked-in analytics let you measure key performance indicators in your operations and pre-defined events trigger alerts so you know the moment something becomes noteworthy.

All of this is set ahead of time so worrying about report data won’t get in the way of your other tasks – like running the factory or managing the plant.

6. The “Mobile Security” Nightmare Conversation is Getting Slightly Less Scary

No discussion about using smart devices is complete without at least mentioning the handwringing and nervous pacing caused making the practice secure.

For the most part, it’s warranted: concerns over industrial mobility range from insecure data storage to weak server side controls and client side injection to broken cryptography.

One study of American adults that use personal devices for some kind of work function admitted found that 33% of them admitted to their organization’s data and/or files not being encrypted. Worse still,

a quarter of those surveyed admitted to being victims of malware or hacking on the personal mobile device they use for work.

Fortunately, the future is getting brighter with respect to security. Today’s modern industrial mobility solutions offer much in the way of security, including digitally signed certificates, 256-bit encryption, soft VPN, and more.

Operator education is becoming better as well. Education ranging from the obvious (don’t install apps that require jail-broken iPhones) to the deeper dives (protection from social engineering attacks) are helping to close the gaps on the employee side.

More education means more operators with work-engaged mobile devices will think twice about letting a friend or family member make a call, or at the very least, enable the auto-lock feature.

Every conversation around industrial mobility needs to set aside ample time for security. To have that discussion and not bring up how the same technology that makes bank transfers and transmittal

of sensitive medical documents via mobile devices successful — and more important secure — is a disservice to mobility.

7. At the Very Least, You Need to Be Ready for BYOD

The industry buzzword coined to refer to operators using their own mobile device to work is BYOD – or Bring Your Own Device.

Given the increased use of mobile devices and the plugged-in nature of today’s workforce, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many operators aren’t waiting for managers to catch on. They’re not waiting for management to get on board — they’re bringing in their mobile devices.

Industry experts predict use of smartphones and tablets by equipment operators and technicians – not managers and plant superintends – will be the factor that makes mobility a key issue in industrial automation operations.

“It’s inevitable that people will bring these devices in so companies need a set of programs and rules so this can happen without creating big problems,” Ben Orchard, systems engineer for Temecula, California’s Opto 22, told AutomationWorld.com.

And although IT teams will more than likely hate to hear it, they need to be ready for it.

Change will inevitably come to networks and corporate policies to accommodate mobile operators. Companies will begin to eye their wireless networks with great scrutiny. Network security, an issue always, will be reexamined with mobility in the conversation. And that’s not even mentioning how malicious apps like RuFraud, Droid Dream Light, and GGTracker come into play. Mobile Device Management solutions – or at the very least, corporate mobile policies – are becoming an essential part of the mobility conversation.

According to IW’s survey, 72% of those surveyed expect to offer some variance of BYOD options to give employees a way to access company data on mobile devices.

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