Russia’s Hacks Prove Stronger Technologies Needed to Protect National Infrastructure

By March 21, 2018 No Comments

Last week, the Trump administration accused Russia of engaging in a widespread assault on U.S. industrial systems, including everything from nuclear power plants to transportation facilities to water and electric systems. Substantiated by analytic efforts from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI, the claims indicated that Russian hackers launched a series of cyberattacks aimed at gaining control of the U.S. electric grid and critical manufacturing sectors, beginning in March 2016. In short, the “multi-stage intrusion campaign” engineered by the Russian government was one designed to take over the highly powerful – and highly sensitive – systems that keep our country running.

With the ability to redirect or shut down critical industries and resources, it doesn’t take much imagination to see why losing control of our national infrastructure would be disastrous. But beyond asking, “How could we let this happen?” we need to be pondering a bigger question: “How could we let this happen when we have the technology to prevent attacks like this?”

Right now, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and distributed control (DCS) systems are deployed in automated islands, relying on network partitioning or separation to keep them safe, but often with limited security capabilities of their own. Time and time again, we’ve seen malicious actors get around the walls we build when we focus on network-based islanding. Avenues of access for malware range from remote access products intended for use by technicians through a USB drive where an employee is keeping some family photos.

At Xage, we know that security is not only about building walls or patching holes after-the-fact, but needs to be integrated everywhere so there is no single point of security failure in the system. For SCADA and DCS, we use a protective security fabric to hold fingerprints of each component, so if any one component is compromised the rest of the system will recognize the problem and lock-out the rogue device. In combination with the blockchain-protected Xage security fabric, we have a protocol-agnostic means of protecting large-scale industrial processes even in the event of the compromise of existing DCS or SCADA systems.

Xage ensures that every component interacting is verified and trustworthy, building a reinforced network and creating a consensus that makes it impossible for malware and botnets to spread undetected. The power to detect and stop these malicious actors means that Xage protects mission-critical systems against attacks such as those allegedly orchestrated by the Russians. It also means that the identification of such an attempt would be immediate, not after two years of investigation.

With Industry 4.0 and smart cities around the corner, our industrial security systems must be armed with tamper-proof authentication management and the power to immediately detect a hacks By using the right tamper-proofing techniques, we can protect our industrial systems and make sure that a successful cyberattack on our national infrastructure is not what we read in the headlines tomorrow.

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The current model of enterprise security is incapable of protecting Industry 4.0 with its intermittently connected, heterogeneous devices and applications, distributed across organizations and geographies. Today’s centralized IT security paradigm needs to be replaced by cybersecurity that is distributed, flexible and adaptive.