Protecting Industrial Control Systems against Cyberattacks

An industrial control system (ICS) is a network of intelligent devices that operate, monitor and control processes in an organization or industry. These networks are critical to the productive operations of many large organizations. Cyberattacks on these systems can lead to incidents such as disruptions or shutdowns in production processes. In some cases, cyberattacks on such systems can result in heavy financial losses.

Since cybercriminals are also becoming more advanced these days, it’s important for organizations to have IT professionals in their team who can protect their ICS networks against any potential cybersecurity threats. In this blog, we’ll share some of the things companies can do to protect their Industrial control systems and any devices against cyberattacks.

Understanding Cyberattacks

Industrial control systems are on the front lines of your company’s cyber defenses: they are involved in every aspect of your operations and their protection extends to all other parts of the overall infrastructure. Industrial control systems’ architecture makes them highly vulnerable to cyberattacks. Cybercriminals also know this, which increases the risk that these networks will be attacked.

During a large-scale cyberattack, there are three principal types of attacks that the company is likely to encounter: Adversarial hacking, botnet attacks, and denial of service (DDoS) attacks. The first two are far easier to detect, and can be mitigated. So, as the first line of defense against cyberattacks, companies should hire a professional network security provider that is able to identify the type of attack and implement appropriate mitigation methods against it.

DDoS Attack

A DDoS attack can take many forms. As the first line of defense, companies should look for the most obvious types of DDoS attacks that can be mitigated via simple defenses such as improving their network’s resilience. As an example, a DDoS attack can leverage a weakness in the computer’s hardware or software, and it can be impossible to spot if a vulnerability is present merely by examining the Internet Protocol (IP) address where it originates from. However, some patterns will almost always be present in any type of DDoS attack, and professionals can identify them to save you.

Understanding the Motive of the Cybercriminal

The nature of a cyberattack often depends on the attacker’s motive; however, it is generally assumed that all cyberattacks are carried out for financial gain. However, many cybercriminals may also have other motivations such as extracting important information about the industry and any particular industry that can be used for any illegal activities.

Fighting against Cybercrimes

A good way for companies to protect themselves against financial cyberattacks is to register for a reputable security service provider. This will allow the company to have a better understanding of a cyberattack as it develops rather than later when it has already been completed, and may also help to identify any possible attacks at an early stage.

The first step towards preventing industrial control systems from being hacked is to understand how these systems work. This includes recognizing the different types of control systems, as well as their methods of protecting themselves against cyberattacks. It’s also important to know about the various types of attacks that an industrial control system is likely to face, and how each attack can be prevented.

In deciding on what kinds of cybersecurity tools should be installed, it’s important not just to look at what is on offer but also to consider if they are necessary for a given purpose. For example, it may not be worth getting an intrusion-detection system just for detecting intrusions when a firewall will suffice. Here are six things all industries can do to enhance their cybersecurity.

Encrypt data and communication

To prevent network traffic from being monitored or modified, encrypt all traffic from an industrial control system to an Ethernet network or a server. Use security protocols that are approved for use with the process control environment. If there is any communication within the industry, always ensure that it’s an end to end encrypted and only done through trustworthy internet connections.

Limit physical access

Because industrial control systems are in critical areas such as manufacturing, energy production, or transportation, it is especially important to limit physical access to them. When controls are installed at distance from the site of operation, physical access should be limited to prevent tampering and unauthorized changes to configuration settings. In other words, no unauthorized person or irrelevant employees should be given access to crucial control systems.

Keep systems and software patched

To stay current with updates and patches, use a patch management system that sends notifications about updates to your organization. This helps ensure your systems’ security remains up-to-date and that you can keep an eye out for any new cybersecurity threats as they emerge.

Implement security policies and standards

A strong network security program starts with a written security policy that defines acceptable behavior for all employees who have access to industrial control systems. If any employee is found guilty of being responsible or involved in a breach of the security policy, make sure you take strict measures.

View of a computer screen with code.

Use management services

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications are still evolving. Many of these applications will require new security protocols and capabilities, and you need to configure your network to allow for these new technologies. Management security services from a trusted managed service provider can help ensure that your ICS security is protected with appropriate tools and measures.

Develop a policy for cybersecurity incident handling

To reduce the risk of failure and disruption caused by cyberattacks, implement a written cybersecurity policy that outlines how the organization should handle an attack or other incident involving an industrial control system. Additionally, have an incident response team in place to follow the policy and help prevent or mitigate damage from a cyberattack.

Take every available opportunity to train staff on how to spot and avoid cyberattacks.

The severity of a cyberattack can be directly correlated to the amount of time it takes to detect that one has taken place. If an industry or company is yet to experience such an attack, training your staff and hiring professionals can help pinpoint the cause and minimize the damage.

At Dexcent, our mission is to help our clients automate their businesses. Business automation can help organizations stay ahead of their competitors. We provide them with the intelligence they need about their industrial systems so that they can make the right decisions at the right time. Our services include control systems engineering, industrial control systems, digital transformation service, engineering consulting service, ICS cybersecurity, industrial automation services, and much more.

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