Why cyber physical damage attacks may increase - Reason 3
Reason 3: The Increased Connectivity of Industrial Control System Environments
In the third of a series of expert blogs, TMK Cyber Underwriter Paul Gooch explains why cyber Physical Damage attacks could increase in 2020 and beyond.
While computerised industrial control devices have been commonly used since the 1970s, industrial control systems (ICS) networks were originally run in isolation from corporate IT office networks. They had no direct connection to the internet, initially because the internet didn’t exist, later because there were no recognised benefits of ICS-internet connectivity. In recent years this has changed dramatically, however. The automation revolution of the 1970s is evolving into ‘Industry 4.0’ – translating data into information that can be consumed by machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence platforms. The most obvious example of this is the ‘Industrial Internet of Things’ (IIoT), which allows any industrial device (‘thing’) to directly send data to a centralised hub, accessible by all business applications.
Although the advantages of Industry 4.0 are obvious, with increased connectivity comes increased risk. The more easily accessible ICS networks become, the larger the potential attack surface for malicious actors. While the traditional method of limiting ICS communication through discrete network layers was complex, expensive and inefficient, direct connectivity reduces the obstacles an attacker must hurdle before gaining access to critical devices. More than half of respondents to the 2018 SANS IIoT Survey said they used IIoT technology in devices which directly control operations and processes, meaning, should an attacker gain access to these devices, they could potentially cause physical damage to plant equipment. Even when IIoT is limited to data collection, as with Stuxnet, attackers can manipulate this data to prevent plant engineers from detecting unsafe operating conditions.
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