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ICS report

ICS (industrial control systems) cyber security threats remain high and present evolving challenges, according to the SANS 2019 State of OT/ICS Cybersecurity Report. Since the last SANS OT/ICS report, in 2017, a growing majority of organisations have significantly matured their security postures over the last two years and are adopting strategies that address OT/IT convergence, according to the IT security training body.

The survey was sponsored by cyber firm Nozomi Networks. Its CEO Edgard Capdevielle said: “The findings in this latest SANS report make it clear that 2019 is the year for ICS cyber security. We see the urgency and growing demand every day as more and more industrial companies around the world reach out to us for help in aggressively arming themselves against cyber threats rising in number, persistence and strength. ICS cyber security is a priority and organisations are strengthening their cyber security posture with innovative OT security technologies that provide deep visibility and control across OT [operational technology] and IT.”

Half of this year’s respondents rate their ICS security threat as high or severe. While down significantly from 2017, it still reinforces the fact that even as organisations make OT cyber security a priority, cyber attacks and data breaches continue to rise and are evolving as OT and IT converge and organisations adopt mobile and wireless, the report authors say.

– half of respondents rank ICS security threats high or severe/critical – down from 69pc in 2017.
– 62pc identify people (internal and external) as the greatest risk for compromise.
– 61pc of all incidents had a disruptive effect on OT activities
– Unprotected devices, nation-states/hactivisits and internal accidents rank as the top three threats, followed by IT integration and external (supply chain or partner) threats.
– Less than 25pc of respondents worry about phishing scams, despite continued evidence from ICS attack research that this tactic continues to be a favoured mechanism to establish an initial point of compromise and entry into many industrial control systems in IT.

This year’s survey found most are now taking ICS threats seriously and are making solid progress in maturing their security postures.

– 42pc saw their control system security budget increase over the past two years (vs. 29pc in 2017).
– 69pc have conducted a security audit of their OT/control systems or networks in the past year.
– 60pc now proactively depend on trained staff to search out events, up 23pc from 2017.
– 62pc have a well-defined (documented) system perimeter or boundary for their OT/control systems.
– 51pc are using continuous active monitoring to detect vulnerabilities.
– 44pc now use anomaly detection tools to identify trends (up 9pc from 2017).
– and 45pc say they are now detecting compromise within 2-7 days of the incident. 53pc of those say they move from detection to containment within six to 24 hours.
• 46pc say increasing visibility into control system cyber assets and configurations is a 2019 priority.
• 28pc say implementing anomaly and intrusion detection tools on ICS networks is a 2019 priority.

This survey found most now embrace OT/IT convergence – while there’s still much to do as organisations work to align their corporate priorities and maintain their budgets.

– 65pc say the current OT/IT collaboration level is moderate or better.
– 54pc say the CISO/CSO establishes security policy around OT assets while, for 42pc, the IT manager bears primary responsibility for implementation of the related controls.
– 60pc first consult a variety of internal resources when signs of an infection or infiltration of their control system cyber assets or network are detected.
– 84pc either have, are implementing or plan to implement a strategy to address OT/IT convergence.
– 30pc say investing in general cyber security awareness programs for employees including IT, OT and hybrid IT/OT personal is a top priority for 2019.
– 27pc say bridging IT and OT initiatives is a top priority for the year.

Cyber security challenges are expanding as ICS boundaries become broader, interwoven and interdependent, exchanging information with myriad other systems and processes. Challenges in this area include mobile and wireless devices, which respondents give a low level of risk. The report points out that some mobile applications replace engineering workstation applications, and they should treat their risk at a higher level. Also, wireless communication is becoming more widely used to transfer data from sensor networks. This further increases the attack surface and opens up severe consequences if compromised.

– 37pc of OT control system connections are wireless (public or private cellular, satellite or radio), yet respondents did not rate wireless communications and protocols as subject to high risk or impact.
– More than 40pc of respondents are using cloud-based services for a number of OT/ICS system functions.
– One out of six respondents use cloud-based services for “control system application virtualisation, including remote logic,” lending to the growing importance and dependence on cloud services.

Mobile devices (laptops, tablets and smart phones) that replace or augment traditional desktops or fixed systems are among the top 5 technology risk areas for OT control systems, however respondents consider them to have a low level of impact (almost last).


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