The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), a federal contractor to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in conjunction with McAfee, today revealed the findings from a report entitled “Technology Security Assessment for Capabilities and Applicability in Energy Sector Industrial Control Systems: McAfee Application Control, Change Control, Integrity Control.”
For the first time, the report fully examines the current challenges facing critical infrastructure and key resources as well as identifying specific risks and vulnerabilities in the evolving cyber threat landscape. It analyzes the value and effectiveness of carefully integrated security solutions necessary to support the national security mission to secure industrial control system environments. In addition, the big challenge for critical infrastructure and energy sector owners and operators, as identified by the report, is how to effectively secure their control systems within their governance and technical domains in an active and capable advanced persistent threat environment.
“When early critical infrastructure systems were created, neither security nor misuse of the interconnected network was considered,” said Philip A. Craig Jr, Senior Cyber Security Research Scientist, a researcher within the National Security Directorate at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “Today, we are still focused on enhancing the security of control systems. Outdated security methods that use a maze of disparate, multi-vendor, and stacked security tools will only delay a cyber attack, providing numerous opportunities for a more advanced and modern cyber adversary to attack cyber security postures throughout critical infrastructure.”
In the report, PNNL and the DOE have identified the following vulnerabilities to control systems environments:
- Increased Exposure: Communication networks linking smart grid devices and systems will create many more access points to these devices, resulting in an increased exposure to potential attacks.
- Interconnectivity: Communication networks will be more interconnected, further exposing the system to possible failures and attacks.
- Complexity: The electric system will become significantly more complex as more subsystems are linked together.
- Common Computing Technologies: Smart grid systems will increasingly use common, commercially available computing technologies and will be subject to their weaknesses.
- Increased Automation: Communication networks will generate, gather, and use data in new and innovative ways as smart grid technologies will automate many functions. Improper use of this data presents new risks to national security and our economy.
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