Retrofit Cybersecurity |

   Retrofitting Cybersecurity

By Robin Whitehead, Director of Strategic Projects, Boulting Technology

In 1982, long before a cybersecurity threat to control system networks became widely recognized, a Trojan attack on control system software caused a huge explosion in a Siberian gas pipeline. Already, many systems that have been retrofitted for compatibility with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are not well protected. This article explains the key considerations for ensuring cybersecurity when retrofitting a system.

Connected devices increase the value of real-time monitoring data and create initiatives such as smart grid, digital oilfield, and smart asset management in the water industry. However, these new technologies and applications have also led to an increase in potential security risks within a plant network.

With few companies able to build a new plant from scratch, many plant managers and engineers are choosing to retrofit existing systems with smart sensors and communication packages to take full advantage of IIoT.

Many Motor Control Centers (MCCs) and Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) have an expected lifetime of decades and were originally designed to operate in isolation during periods of low cyber attack risk. Connected devices can create security vulnerabilities if there are no extensive security systems.


Only a vulnerability in a facility, such as an unprotected SPS, can make a whole network vulnerable to cyber-attacks, especially as there are currently no rules or clear rules on how to protect those networks. 19659004] Research agency Gartner estimates that more than 20 percent of enterprise security attacks will involve Internet of Things (IoT) connections by 2020. Many of these attacks are expected to exploit vulnerabilities such as misplaced MCCs and PLCs

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The Siberian pipeline attack is just one example of the devastating effects of control weaknesses.


When a vulnerability exists, an insecure network can quickly spread a threat, such as a self-replicating worm, across the facility.

Legacy systems typically work with closed proprietary communication protocols, and migration to open protocols including TCP / IP means that vulnerabilities can be quickly found and repaired before potential attackers detect the risk. If an legacy system is associated with an open protocol Being Secure Patches can play a critical role in reducing potential cyber attacks, but many vendors are foregoing their introduction due to high costs and concerns about potential downtime.

Only a missed patch can make it impossible to protect a legacy system. 19659004]

Avoid Vulnerabilities

Retrofitting existing equipment is the ideal way to leverage IIoT for many assets, but care should be taken when implementing legacy technologies in networks. Continuous risk assessments are essential to identify potential targets and to consider all connections and to predict the worst-case scenario of a security breach.

A few installations may require a complete network security rewrite, such as: For example, updating a log to one with a continued security patch. However, most systems will find that installing additional software, updating security patches or performing a top-down scan of network connections will be enough to bring cybersecurity to the necessary level.

Cyber ​​security is a perennial problem for any plant Cyber ​​attack is growing year by year and is now significantly higher than during the Siberian pipeline attack in 1982. Extra care must be taken in integrating legacy systems into existing networks.

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