- The number of vulnerabilities existing in SCADA/ICS applications is high, with as many as 1,805 yet to be discovered vulnerabilities existing on some control system computers.
- The frequency of patching needed to address future SCADA/ICS vulnerabilities in both controllers and computers likely exceeds the tolerance of most SCADA/ICS operators for system shutdowns. Unlike IT systems, most industrial processes operate 24x7 and demand high uptime. Weekly shutdowns for patching are unacceptable.
- Even when patches can be installed, they can be problematic. There is a 1 in 12 chance that any patch will affect the safety or reliability of a control system, and there is a 60% failure rate in patches fixing the reported vulnerability in control system products. In addition, patches often require staff with special skills to be present. In many cases, such experts are often not certified for access to safety regulated industrial sites.
- Patches are available for less than 50% of publically disclosed vulnerabilities.
- Many critical infrastructure operators are reluctant to patch as it may degrade service and increase downtime.
Another compensating control is Tofino Security Profiles, available in Belden’s Tofino Security product line. Tofino Security Profiles are rule and protocol definitions that address newly disclosed vulnerabilities. They provide a simple way for automation system vendors to create and securely distribute malware protection. Operators benefit from a single, easy-to-deploy package of tailored rules that can be installed without impacting operations. The result is that critical industrial infrastructure facilities can quickly and effectively defend themselves against new threats.“My research highlights the multiple challenges with patching for SCADA and ICS systems,” remarked Eric Byres. “To secure facilities, critical infrastructure operators should pursue a Defense in Depth strategy that includes patching when possible, and use compensating controls for protection when patching is not possible.” Starting today, Belden is publishing a series of blog articles on its patching research and is accompanying them with useful documents. These documents include:
- “Patching for Control System Security - A Broken Model?”; a presentation that summarizes its patching research,
- “Patching for Control System Security - A Broken Model?“ a peer reviewed published paper,
- and “Solving the SCADA/ICS Security Patch Problem” , a White Paper.