Security for SCADA systems is a major concern due to their vital role in regulating vital systems, yet many older SCADA devices that were not intended with security protections are now linked to the Internet. Additionally, these devices are incapable of detecting and reporting traffic anomalies, probes, or assaults, as well as managing and controlling security rules.
While newer systems may offer enhanced security, many SCADA equipment remain in service for ten years or longer, sometimes in remote locations, resulting in a very delayed migration to newer, more secure devices.
Along with system-level security concerns, SCADA protocols are frequently intrinsically vulnerable. They may be lacking in fundamental security measures. Rather than that, they frequently rely on "security by obscurity" or isolation from public networks. Without security features such as authentication and encryption, the underlying protocols present a convenient attack vector for hackers attempting to compromise SCADA machines.
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Here we will look at the top SCADA attacks that have happened in the past.
Introduction to SCADA Security
SCADA security is the technique of safeguarding supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) networks, a standardized framework for industrial control systems. These networks are responsible for providing millions of people with important commodities and services such as water, natural gas, power, and transportation via automated control and remote human management.
They may also be used to boost efficiency and quality in less critical real-world operations such as ski resort snowmaking and beer brewing. SCADA is one of the most used industrial control system architectures (ICS).
These networks, like any other, are vulnerable to cyber-attacks that might rapidly and catastrophically knock down any component of the nation's essential infrastructure if the proper security measures are not in place.
SCADA systems may cost an organization between tens of thousands to millions of dollars. As a result, enterprises must deploy sophisticated SCADA security measures to safeguard their infrastructure and the millions of people who might be impacted by a disruption caused by an external attack or internal error.
Threats to the Security of SCADA Networks
Every business or institution that deals with SCADA systems, from small businesses to large governments, is vulnerable to SCADA security breaches. These risks have the potential to have a significant impact on both the economy and the community. The following are specific dangers to SCADA networks:
Individuals or groups with malevolent intent have the potential to bring a SCADA network to a grinding halt. By acquiring access to critical SCADA components, hackers may wreak havoc on a business, ranging from service disruptions to cyber warfare.
Malware, such as viruses, spyware, and ransomware, can put SCADA systems at risk. While malware cannot explicitly attack the network, it can nonetheless represent a danger to the critical infrastructure that supports the SCADA network's management. This comprises SCADA programs that run on mobile devices and are used to monitor and administer SCADA systems.
Internal dangers can be equally as destructive as external threats. SCADA security must handle these hazards, which range from human mistakes to a dissatisfied employee or contractor purposefully trying to sabotage the system.
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Top SCADA security breaches
Probably the most well-known SCADA/ICS assault in history is the hack that targeted Seimens PLC controllers installed in Iran's Natanz nuclear enrichment complex. Stuxnet, developed by the US National Security Agency with the goal of stalling Iran's nuclear development, was unleashed in 2009 in the Middle East and gradually spread around the world.
It entered the system via three zero-day vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Windows operating system and then overwrote the ladder logic of the uranium centrifuges' PLCs, rendering them incapable of accurately enriching uranium at the desired concentration.
Even now, it remains one of the most sophisticated SCADA/ICS assaults, and a textbook example of how focused and malicious SCADA/ICS attacks can be.
Blackenergy3 was malware that was repurposed in 2014 to target Ukraine's electrical system. Initially built as a DDoS weapon, Blackergy3 was repurposed to allow the attacker to get access to systems within a Ukraine-based power utility.
BlackEnergy 3 was a Microsoft Office macro malware that exploited a vulnerability in the OLE packager 2 (CVE-2014-4114) in Microsoft Office 2013. Microsoft classified this vulnerability as MS14-060.
This technique was finally used to corrupt the Human Machine Interface (HMI) and then take control of the electrical grid's breakers. The terrorists then blacked down large sections of Ukraine deliberately during Russia's operation in Eastern Ukraine.
Shamoon was created to steal and destroy data at Saudi Aramco, the world's largest energy firm. In 2012, this hack replaced data on computer systems with a picture of a burning American flag.
Unlike prior SCADA/ICS assaults, Shamoon targeted the data on the facilities' computers. This is rare, given the majority of SCADA/ICS assaults target industrial activities and the PLCs that run them.
Shamoon attempted to propagate from the corporate network containing the data to the SCADA network. However, the malware was unable to do so due to effective network segmentation and isolation. This attack was very certainly carried out by Iranian hackers, Saudi Arabia's archenemies.
4.Dam in New York
Iranian hackers gained access to a minor dam in New York State, the United States, in 2013. It appears to have been a demonstration of their ability to get entrance, as there was little or no damage.
The attackers gained access to the SCADA controllers using a cellular modem connection. Fortunately, the system was in maintenance mode at the time, preventing access to control features.
This exploit demonstrates the vulnerability of SCADA/ICS systems that are linked to the Internet. Many of these institutions (dams, locks, and water systems, for example) have decided to go offline rather than risk being attacked.
Numerous SCADA/ICS-related assaults go undetected. In the majority of nations (including the United States), despite their national security implications, there is no legal obligation to disclose these assaults. To shield the company's identity, one such assault was dubbed Kemuri. Verizon Security reported the incident in 2016 and stated that it constituted an attack on a water firm.
The attackers gained access to the valve and flow control application, which is used to manage the PLCs that mix the chemicals used in water treatment. Although minimal harm was done as a result of the operators' vigilance, if the attackers had a greater understanding of this SCADA/ICS system, many lives might have been lost, and the economy may have been impacted.
In 2014, a German steel mill was hacked by malware that gained access to the business network and then to the SCADA/ICS network. We are only aware of this assault because it was anonymously included in a German government security report without identifying the organization or facility (demonstrating once again how many SCADA/ICS attacks go unreported and unnoticed by the public).
The attackers gained access to industrial control systems and caused various system failures. The assailants were well familiar with the steel mill's operations and industrial control systems.
This steel plant came perilously close to collapse.
Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems are responsible for the control of a large number of critical services that our modern society relies on, including electric power distribution, water treatment, natural gas and oil pipelines, hydroelectric dams, traffic lights, train switching systems, and building controls. Network operators are becoming more aggressive in their defenses against cyber threats.
SCADA/ICS systems are among the most important in any economy, yet they are also among the least secure. Any contemporary conflict will almost certainly contain a cyberwar aspect that aims to harm these businesses and hamper the target's economy. Many of these incidents go unreported, but we can get a sense of what they could look like from the ones that are. The above list of SCADA attacks demonstrates the important nature of being able to respond to SCADA security situations and evaluate and learn from them.