Securing SCADA Systems for Electric Power Distributors

SCADA system securityAutomation through SCADA has allowed us to scale our critical infrastructures and build an impressive electrical grid.

There’s a problem, however: SCADA systems are essentially a backdoor for cyber criminals, international saboteurs, and other malicious types to launch unprecedented attacks that could affect millions of people.

Here’s what all SCADA managers and electrical distributor plant managers overseeing critical infrastructures need to know.

Existing SCADA System Vulnerabilities

Industrial Control Systems Security Assessment
As anyone in the electrical industry remembers, the Northeast power outage in 2003 cost $6 billion dollars and 11 lives. The cause? Human error and faulty equipment. Steps have since been taken to avoid a similar blackout, but many of these have focused solely on reducing the chance for error.

What if the damage were intentional?

That’s the question on the minds of many SCADA managers and electric distributor plant managers overseeing critical infrastructures – as well as cyber security experts.

Security experts like to say, “It’s not a matter of if you’ve been hacked, but how you’ve already been hacked.” ICS-CERT advisories and alerts seem to indicate this is true. Hackers and cyber criminals – including those working for foreign governments – have already infiltrated many of the nation’s critical infrastructures. Making matters worse, new vulnerabilities are discovered constantly, making security a more difficult challenge than ever.

If these systems have been infiltrated, why aren’t there more massive blackouts and outages?

One reason is political leverage. Foreign hackers will inject malicious code into the SCADA systems, monitor the messages passing through the network, then relay those messages to their superiors. Other times, this code acts like a “sleeper cell”, keeping a back door open for a potential attack to occur in the future.

Due to the automation built into SCADA systems, most SCADA managers and electric distributor plant managers see their systems functioning regularly while suspicious code is modifying normal operations in unseen ways.

Steps to Identify, Recover, and Secure SCADA Systems

Though security experts agree electrical critical infrastructures are highly vulnerable to cyber attacks, there are steps that can be taken to identify threats, recover from attacks, and protect the site from future attacks.

  • Vulnerability assessment: Conducting baseline tests, including analyzing your network traffic, can find malware, suspicious traffic, and other indicators of a breach. A SCADA security assessment can find ways hackers potentially could infiltrate a SCADA system, giving you a clear roadmap for securing your SCADA systems.
  • Manage remote connections: Updating and deploying remote management solutions allows workers to manage your infrastructure from a computer miles away. This saves a significant amount of time and resources as technicians no longer need to make in-person site visits.
  • Asset identification: With so many legacy devices on SCADA networks, keeping track of all of them is a difficult task. Security consultants can discover where all of your devices are located and monitor what is being done with each asset.
  • Consulting and Tools: Finally, consultants can provide clear direction about potential next steps and inform your organization about tools that may cut costs while increasing long-term security.

Maintaining SCADA system security isn’t simply a cost issue or a matter of convenience; it’s actually a matter of national security. Don’t let hackers domestically and internationally have access to the nation’s critical infrastructures. Contact our experienced SCADA systems consultants at Patriot Technologies, and let’s begin a conversation about how we can remove threats from your system and keep you safe in the future.