Those of us living in developed, industrialized nations may take many modern-day services for granted. Envision this typical end-of-workday scenario: You disembark from a train that arrived on schedule at your final destination. You flip a light switch to illuminate your home. You turn on the tap and clean water flows freely.
These types of ordinary events are expected to be delivered without any hiccups. Now, imagine a world where the delivery of sustained services is suddenly interrupted, increasing the industrial risk and putting your personal safety immediately at risk due to the lack of clean water, the disappearance of electrical power, the interruption of mass transit or even a nuclear meltdown. Suddenly, safety is much harder to achieve, and industrial risk becomes more of a concern.
Vulnerability of Critical Systems
In the last 25 years, big industry has slowly attached itself to the digital age, with the intent of making their production environments much more stable and efficient. Programmable logic controllers that allow authority of industrial equipment are now largely implemented across the globe and are used extensively in almost all industrial processes.
Computerizing these industrial control systems (ICS) has ultimately led to their being highly prized targets for many threat actors, largely because of the amount of damage that can be perpetrated and the resulting chaos that may follow. Stories of such sabotage are legion and frequently make the headlines.
Mitigating Industrial Risk
That’s why mitigating the industrial risk to an ICS is increasingly the focus of government and private institutions around the world. Our post-industrial societies are reinventing themselves every single day. Advances in the delivery of power and water systems often go unnoticed by the consumer until a sudden blackout occurs or the tap stops running.
Companies that deliver life-sustaining utilities need to take full responsibility for protecting their own assets and their own consumers. There should be no exceptions, especially because the solution to keeping adversaries out of an ICS is implementation of simple safeguards and risk managers.
IBM’s latest research report, “Security Attacks on Industrial Control Systems,” takes a look at the history of ICS, the susceptibility of these systems to certain attacks and how the systems can be defended.