Managing FUD in ICS Security: Developing a Cyber Security Framework

SecurityMatters’ Brian Proctor joins Scott King of Rapid7 for their Whiteboard Wednesday series. In this episode they discuss effective strategies for managing FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) in ICS security.

One of the key ways to manage this is with a cyber security framework. The foundation of this framework is maintaining an accurate, up-to-date asset inventory to effectively assess any risks to your network.


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Video transcript

Scott King: Hello my name is Scott King and I work for Rapid7.

Brian Proctor: Hi I’m Brian Proctor from SecurityMatters.

SK: Today we’re here to talk to you about how to manage FUD in ICS security.

BP: Have you ever received those emails from your executives, reading the latest news articles, asking, what’s our risk? What’s our threat? What are we doing about the latest vulnerability that they read about? I know I have as an asset owner. And today we really want to talk about strategies for when you receive those, what’s a message that you can send back to those executives.

SK: In order to effectively respond to those emails, one of the first things you need to do as a security leader running a security organization is you need to be running a best practices program that’s based on a foundational framework, such as the NIST cyber security framework. A framework like that gives you all the foundation that you need in order to effectively understand and manage the types of controls and the types of risks that exist within your ICS environment.

So, when you get that email from your leaders that’s asking you about the latest article that they’ve read in the newspaper, you’re able to effectively talk to the specific components and aspects of that article and respond to that in terms of how that article manifests itself into risk within your organization, and how you’re effectively managing that risk.

BP: One of the first things about starting a framework, starting a program based upon a framework, it’s really starting with inventory. What do I have? What’s out there? I used to get those questions a lot. How many relays, RTUs, PLCs do you have and where are they running?

So right here we have a perdu model network diagram that we’ve drawn up of what you would typically find in a control system. And if you’re an asset owner and there’s a new vulnerability that’s maybe related to a Rockwell PLC, and you don’t know how many PLCs you have and what firmware version they’re running, you can’t answer these historically difficult questions to answer, you know, really getting that inventory by whatever means possible whether that’s passively looking at the protocols, or even doing physical site walks is possible as well.

But understanding the various assets at the various levels of your control system is very, very key. So, once you understand what’s out there, then you can understand how to protect those assets. If you cannot answer what do I have, what’s out there, you need to go back and start with that to really establish your program.

SK: I 100% agree. Typically, what you read in these news articles is going to be conversations that are specifically talking about foreign hacker groups that are infiltrating infrastructure within the United States or within a particular segment of the United States, and the reality of that is that a lot of those types of attacks are primarily based around things like email phishing, malicious web URLs, and essentially tricking users into visiting malicious websites.

Now one of the big questions that we get is how do you pivot from an IT network that was infiltrated by an adversary into an OT network. And the answer is pretty straightforward. A lot of OT networks are connected to the same IT networks that people do business on and run their companies with.

So, by looking at a model like this, what you’re doing is you’re separating out your IT network from your OT network and you’re able to apply a level of control that allows you to manage assets that are critical to the running of your systems in your ICS environment that do not have any bearing whatsoever on your IT systems.

BP: That’s our opinions and the first steps of how to really manage FUD in ICS cyber security. Thanks so much for tuning in we’ll talk to you next time.