For example, there are two kinds of network security. Real and imagined, and it can be hard to tell them apart, especially if you dont know how they work and the problems theyre supposed to solve. This issues cover story, Fence Me In: Common-Sense Security, tries to help remedy this situation.
Most control networks used to be hardwired, standalone systems that didnt require much added security because they were physically isolated, even when they adopted fieldbus technology that tied together dozens of devices.
All this changed with the recent emergence and adoption of Ethernet, Internet, and wireless technologies that can link thousands of devices worldwide. Suddenly, PLCs on the plant-floor could connect to the Internet, serve web pages, update enterprise-level users, as well as pick up viruses and be hacked by intruders. Simultaneously, invasive and malicious software has become so easy to use that a growing hacker community reportedly now uses one-button, hack and crack tools.
So, after years of adopting little or no security capabilities, many control and automaton engineers are scared their networks and applications will be hacked and damaged, and are desperately seeking any prescriptive software solution or hardware module that promises to protect their application. Andwhat a nice surprisethere are about a bazillion suppliers with ready-made solutions. What a relief! Hmm, does it smell like Y2K in here? Oh well, sweet dreams.
Okay, wake up now! Industrial networks dont work this way, and improving their security cant be achieved with one-shot solutions. Sure, if you dont already have them, you must install routers, switches, firewalls, and VLANs to direct and isolate data traffic. However, viruses, bots, and other malicious software are always adapting, and finding ways around static security solutions. Real security starts with inventorying your entire network; identifying every place that data is coming in or going out; drafting IT and plant-floor control staffers to develop and test security policies and procedures; turning on security functions and antivirus software; and training everyone about safe computing practices. You know this, or at least your IT people know it.
So, why do so many users seem to fall for quick-fix security solutions? Its because doing nothing and then panicking are two sides of the same laziness coin. They look different, but neither side accomplishes anything useful. Unfortunately, if youre ignorant about genuine network security, then an imaginary solution probably looks just as goodand its so much easier than seeking real knowledge! And, similar to recent federal responses to terrorism and hurricanes, if you really dont know what youre doing, then youd sure better look busy when the boss, customers, or voters come around. So, buy any security software package, dump your shampoo and take off your shoes at the airport, invade a couple of countries, whatever, just look busy.
Paradoxically, though hackers using the same code version might seem scary, this too may be yet another one-shot solution that doesnt require much imagination. So, even though there may be more hackers, they also may be desperately seeking easy intrusion methods. Ironically, the potentially good news is that innovative security developers and knowledgeable users consequently may have an easier job staying ahead of external threats in the future. I guess it really was a good fortune cookie. Thanks again, Socrates.