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Securing IoT

Chapter Description

In this sample chapter from IoT Fundamentals: Networking Technologies, Protocols, and Use Cases for the Internet of Things, readers will review a brief history of operational technology (OT) security, how it has evolved, and some of the common challenges it faces.

How IT and OT Security Practices and Systems Vary

The differences between an enterprise IT environment and an industrial-focused OT deployment are important to understand because they have a direct impact on the security practice applied to them. Some of these areas are touched on briefly earlier in this chapter, and they are more explicitly discussed in the following sections.

The Purdue Model for Control Hierarchy

Regardless of where a security threat arises, it must be consistently and unequivocally treated. IT information is typically used to make business decisions, such as those in process optimization, whereas OT information is instead characteristically leveraged to make physical decisions, such as closing a valve, increasing pressure, and so on. Thus, the operational domain must also address physical safety and environmental factors as part of its security strategy—and this is not normally associated with the IT domain. Organizationally, IT and OT teams and tools have been historically separate, but this has begun to change, and they have started to converge, leading to more traditionally IT-centric solutions being introduced to support operational activities. For example, systems such as firewalls and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) are being used in IoT networks.

As the borders between traditionally separate OT and IT domains blur, they must align strategies and work more closely together to ensure end-to-end security. The types of devices that are found in industrial OT environments are typically much more highly optimized for tasks and industrial protocol-specific operation than their IT counterparts. Furthermore, their operational profile differs as well.

Industrial environments consist of both operational and enterprise domains. To understand the security and networking requirements for a control system, the use of a logical framework to describe the basic composition and function is needed. The Purdue Model for Control Hierarchy, introduced in Chapter 2, is the most widely used framework across industrial environments globally and is used in manufacturing, oil and gas, and many other industries. It segments devices and equipment by hierarchical function levels and areas and has been incorporated into the ISA99/IEC 62443 security standard, as shown in Figure 8-3. For additional detail on how the Purdue Model for Control Hierarchy is applied to the manufacturing and oil and gas industries, see Chapter 9, “Manufacturing,” and Chapter 10, “Oil and Gas.”

Figure 8-3

Figure 8-3 The Logical Framework Based on the Purdue Model for Control Hierarchy

This model identifies levels of operations and defines each level. The enterprise and operational domains are separated into different zones and kept in strict isolation via an industrial demilitarized zone (DMZ):

  • Enterprise zone

    • Level 5: Enterprise network: Corporate-level applications such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), document management, and services such as Internet access and VPN entry from the outside world exist at this level.

    • Level 4: Business planning and logistics network: The IT services exist at this level and may include scheduling systems, material flow applications, optimization and planning systems, and local IT services such as phone, email, printing, and security monitoring.

  • Industrial demilitarized zone

    • DMZ: The DMZ provides a buffer zone where services and data can be shared between the operational and enterprise zones. It also allows for easy segmentation of organizational control. By default, no traffic should traverse the DMZ; everything should originate from or terminate on this area.

  • Operational zone

    • Level 3: Operations and control: This level includes the functions involved in managing the workflows to produce the desired end products and for monitoring and controlling the entire operational system. This could include production scheduling, reliability assurance, systemwide control optimization, security management, network management, and potentially other required IT services, such as DHCP, DNS, and timing.

    • Level 2: Supervisory control: This level includes zone control rooms, controller status, control system network/application administration, and other control-related applications, such as human-machine interface (HMI) and historian.

    • Level 1: Basic control: At this level, controllers and IEDs, dedicated HMIs, and other applications may talk to each other to run part or all of the control function.

    • Level 0: Process: This is where devices such as sensors and actuators and machines such as drives, motors, and robots communicate with controllers or IEDs.

  • Safety zone

    • Safety-critical: This level includes devices, sensors, and other equipment used to manage the safety functions of the control system.

One of the key advantages of designing an industrial network in structured levels, as with the Purdue model, is that it allows security to be correctly applied at each level and between levels. For example, IT networks typically reside at Levels 4 and 5 and use security principles common to IT networks. The lower levels are where the industrial systems and IoT networks reside. As shown in Figure 8-3, a DMZ resides between the IT and OT levels. Clearly, to protect the lower industrial layers, security technologies such as firewalls, proxy servers, and IPSs should be used to ensure that only authorized connections from trusted sources on expected ports are being used. At the DMZ, and, in fact, even between the lower levels, industrial firewalls that are capable of understanding the control protocols should be used to ensure the continuous operation of the OT network.

Although security vulnerabilities may potentially exist at each level of the model, it is clear that due to the amount of connectivity and sophistication of devices and systems, the higher levels have a greater chance of incursion due to the wider attack surface. This does not mean that lower levels are not as important from a security perspective; rather, it means that their attack surface is smaller, and if mitigation techniques are implemented properly, there is potentially less impact to the overall system. As shown in Figure 8-4, a review of published vulnerabilities associated with industrial security in 2011 shows that the assets at the higher levels of the framework had more detected vulnerabilities.

Figure 8-4

Figure 8-4 2011 Industrial Security Report of Published Vulnerability Areas (US Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) https://ics-cert.us-cert.gov).

OT Network Characteristics Impacting Security

While IT and OT networks are beginning to converge, they still maintain many divergent characteristics in terms of how they operate and the traffic they handle. These differences influence how they are treated in the context of a security strategy. For example, compare the nature of how traffic flows across IT and OT networks:

  • IT networks: In an IT environment, there are many diverse data flows. The communication data flows that emanate from a typical IT endpoint travel relatively far. They frequently traverse the network through layers of switches and eventually make their way to a set of local or remote servers, which they may connect to directly. Data in the form of email, file transfers, or print services will likely all make its way to the central data center, where it is responded to, or triggers actions in more local services, such as a printer. In the case of email or web browsing, the endpoint initiates actions that leave the confines of the enterprise network and potentially travel around the earth.

  • OT networks: By comparison, in an OT environment (Levels 0–3), there are typically two types of operational traffic. The first is local traffic that may be contained within a specific package or area to provide local monitoring and closed-loop control. This is the traffic that is used for real-time (or near-real-time) processes and does not need to leave the process control levels. The second type of traffic is used for monitoring and control of areas or zones or the overall system. SCADA traffic is a good example of this, where information about remote devices or summary information from a function is shared at a system level so that operators can understand how the overall system, or parts of it, are operating. They can then implement appropriate control commands based on this information.

When IT endpoints communicate, it is typically short and frequent conversations with many connections. The nature of the communications is open, and almost anybody can speak with anybody else, such as with email or browsing. Although there are clearly access controls, most of those controls are at the application level rather than the network level.

In an OT environment, endpoint communication is typically point-to-point, such as a SCADA master to SCADA slave, or uses multicast or broadcast, leveraging a publisher/subscriber type of model. Communication could be TCP or UDP or neither (as in the case of PROFINET, discussed in Chapter 9, “Manufacturing”).

Although network timing in the OT space typically mirrors that of the enterprise with NTP/SNTP used for device clocking against a master time source, a number of use cases require an extremely accurate clock source and extremely accurate time/synchronization distribution, as well as measurable and consistent latency/jitter. Some industrial applications require timing via IEEE 1588, PTP (Precision Time Protocol), so that information from source and destination can be accurately measured and compared at microsecond intervals with communication equipment introducing delays of no more than 50 nanoseconds. Jitter for the sending and receiving of information must also be minimized to ensure correct operation. By way of comparison, in the enterprise space, voice is often considered the highest-priority application, with a typical one-way delay of 150 milliseconds or more. In a number of operational environments for oil and gas, manufacturing, and power utilities, delay must be under 10 microseconds. Security attacks that cause delay, such as denial of service (DoS) attacks, can cause systems to malfunction purely by disrupting the timing mechanism.

IT networks are typically more mature and use up-to-date technologies. These mature modern networking practices are critical to meet the high degree of flexibility required in the IT environment. Virtual networking, virtual workspaces, and virtual servers are commonplace. It is likely that there are a wide variety of device types actively participating in any given network at any one time. Flexible interoperability is thus critical. To achieve interoperability, there is usually minimal proprietary communication activity, and the emphasis is typically on open standards. The movement to IPv6 continues to progress, and higher-order network services, such as quality of service (QoS), are normal as well. Endpoints are not just promiscuous in their communications, but they operate a wide number of applications from a large number of diverse vendors. The open nature of these compute systems means a wide range of protocols are traversing the OT network.

Industrial networks often still rely on serial communication technologies or have mixed serial and Ethernet. This means that not only do many devices lack IP capabilities, but it is not even possible to monitor and secure the serial traffic in the same way you do for IP or Ethernet. In some environments, the network remains very static, meaning a baseline of traffic patterns can be built up and monitored for changes. In static environments, the visibility of devices, protocols, and traffic flows can be managed and secured more easily. However, there is a continued growth of mobile devices and ad hoc connectivity, especially in industries such as transportation and smart cities, as well as a rise in mobile fleet assets across a plethora of other industries. These dynamic and variable networks are much more difficult to baseline, monitor, and secure.

Security Priorities: Integrity, Availability, and Confidentiality

Security priorities are driven by the nature of the assets in each environment. In an IT realm, the most critical element and the target of attacks has been information. In an OT realm, the critical assets are the process participants: workers and equipment. Security priorities diverge based on those differences.

In the IT business world, there are legal, regulatory, and commercial obligations to protect data, especially data of individuals who may or may not be employed by the organization. This emphasis on privacy focuses on the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the data—not necessarily on a system or a physical asset. The impact of losing a compute device is considered minimal compared to the information that it could hold or provide access to. By way of comparison, in the OT world, losing a device due to a security vulnerability means production stops, and the company cannot perform its basic operation. Loss of information stored on these devices is a lower concern, but there are certainly confidential data sets in the operating environment that may have economic impacts, such as formulations and processes.

In an operational space, the safety and continuity of the process participants is considered the most critical concern. Thus, the goal is the continued uptime of devices and the safety of the people who operate them. The result is to emphasize availability, integrity, and confidentiality. The impact of loss here extends even to loss of life.

Security Focus

Security focus is frequently driven by the history of security impacts that an organization has experienced. In an IT environment, the most painful experiences have typically been intrusion campaigns in which critical data is extracted or corrupted. The result has been a significant investment in capital goods and humanpower to reduce these external threats and minimize potential internal malevolent actors.

In the OT space, the history of loss due to external actors has not been as long, even though the potential for harm on a human scale is clearly significantly higher. The result is that the security events that have been experienced have come more from human error than external attacks. Interest and investment in industrial security have primarily been in the standard access control layers. Where OT has diverged, to some degree, is to emphasize the application layer control between the higher-level controller layer and the receiving operating layer. Later in this chapter you will learn more about the value and risks associated with this approach.

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