What is SCADA Security & How Does it Protect Infrastructure Networks?

The oil & gas, electrical, and manufacturing industries host vast and complex industrial networks. Protecting these industrial systems is anything but a simple task. 

Many industrial systems are unique and, as such, require their own set of diverse, coordinated efforts to maintain physical and cybersecurity protections. But regardless of any individual system’s unique differences, the first step in security remains the same: protecting SCADA. 

Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems are essentially the “brain” of many of these systems. Even distributed control systems, where separate systems can operate independently from one another, are still often integrated with a central SCADA. 

No matter the size and complexity of an industrial network, SCADA will always remain at the top of the list of security operators’ priorities.

What is SCADA Security and What Does it Look Like?

SCADA’s components are diverse and can include networks, data acquisition, data presentation, and control from either local or remote locations. For that reason, SCADA will look different depending on the industrial system it oversees.

SCADA security will also look different depending on each industrial system. But certain guidelines hold true, regardless of the idiosyncrasies of any industrial system. Here are a few solid industrial cybersecurity practices for keeping SCADA secure:

1. Keeping SCADA on a Secure Network (Segmentation)

Keep SCADA separate from the organization’s general network for day-to-day operations. This ensures that errors or vulnerabilities in the general network won’t transfer over to essential SCADA functions.

2. No SCADA Connections to the Internet

Direct internet connection should be avoided at all costs.

SCADA Security meme - Nobody connects SCADA to the internet

3. Secure Password Policies & Multi-factor Authentication

While authentication is not always a component of SCADA, if/when it is, secure password policies should be implemented, and employees should change passwords regularly. Inactive accounts should be deleted at first availability.

Wherever possible, multifactor authentication should be implemented, especially for remote access and jumphost systems.

4. Managing and Reducing Risk

Software patches, tools, and firmware upgrades are essential in bolstering SCADA’s efficacy and security when those elements are available

OT vs IT patch management meme

However, not all software patches are created equal, so they should all be reviewed by your organization and integrated into your maintenance windows.

5. Appropriate Physical Security

Cybersecurity can only do so much if physical security measures aren’t in place. Access to areas containing any components of SCADA systems should be properly enforced.

SCADA Security meme - Physical security

6. Create a SCADA Security Checklist

Operators should develop a regular security checklist for assessing industrial security protocols. While many industrial systems are unique, templated SCADA checklists can be helpful for identifying solid industrial cybersecurity practices.

SCADA’s Best Defense is Already in Place

While these industrial systems are often vast and complex, their best lines of defense are already in place. In most cases, those who know how to protect these industrial systems are already the ones doing it. 

Security operators in SCADA systems use their expertise to build and maintain physical and cybersecurity defenses. As such, the best industrial cybersecurity tools are just that—tools. They work to enhance the protections that come from operators’ knowledge, skillsets, and understanding of their industrial systems. 

SynSaber offers a low-hassle, sensor-based tool for expanding operators’ insights into their industrial systems. At SynSaber, we understand that to enhance industrial security, operators require added insights into their industrial systems, not additional hardware that modifies the makeup of their already complex industrial systems. 

With SynSaber, there are no cumbersome hardware devices that interfere with systems or fall victim to uncontrollable supply-chain issues. SynSaber’s out-of-the-box sensor-based industrial cybersecurity solution remains reliable, low-footprint, and effective to help industrial systems keep running. Interested in learning more? Reach out to us for a demo today.