Perimeter

10/11/2018
10:30 AM
Satish Gannu
Satish Gannu
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
50%
50%

The Better Way: Threat Analysis & IIoT Security

Threat analysis offers a more nuanced and multidimensional approach than go/no-go patching in the Industrial Internet of Things. But first, vendors must agree on how they report and address vulnerabilities.

The best approach for securing operational technology is to, first, examine OT's significant security challenges in a far more discriminating manner than the industry currently does. I propose that we use the time-tested threat analysis approach to patching OT systems that can't simply be patched the way IT systems are, for many reasons.

The first step in threat analysis would be to hold off taking any immediate action — patching, not patching, something else — until we validate if a system vulnerability actually exists and, if it does, how it can be exploited.

There are multiple factors to consider. For one, some systems that operate deep inside enterprises may indeed have vulnerabilities, but because the system is so isolated within the enterprise, the actual security risk is less than the risk of shutting the systems down for patching, assuming patches exist.

The calculus changes, of course, when evaluating systems that are exposed to the cloud or the Internet, where the security risk is obviously much greater. Threat analysis would identify which systems can probably go on operating without patches, and which need to be stopped for patching.

Threat analysis would also validate a vulnerability, but it is important to ask another question: If this vulnerability can be exploited by certain threats, is there a way to protect from those threats short of patching? For example, security experts could create a set of predetermined scripts within the network, or on the endpoint device itself, that would help identify the appropriate response to a number of different threats. These scripts would serve as an "if/then" template to formalize, automate, and accelerate responses to threats. The point is to think with more sophistication than a binary patch/don't patch decision.

Wanted: Better Patch Info
Software companies must support the development of threat analysis by telling customers more about the patches they release. Key pieces of information we'd like to see are how vulnerabilities can be exploited and possible ways to protect against them. This extra transparency would give customers more information to make decisions on the right security actions for affected systems. Security experts need to be confident a patch will, at the very least, maintain the same risk level that existed before a vulnerability was discovered.

Threat analysis must be extremely granular. If an enterprise has 100 devices running, each one requires its own threat analysis, which would include a comparison of vulnerabilities versus patch benefits, as well as a resulting menu of security options. The primary goal, of course, is to enhance security while at the same time maximizing OT uptime.

Clearly, threat analysis is more nuanced and multidimensional than go/no-go patching decisions. But it's a challenge the industry must solve to get from where we are to where we should be. Right now, following the process described above takes time, costs money, requires highly skilled professionals — and even then, it's not easy to do. However, if the vendor community agreed upon a set of standards on how it reports and addresses vulnerabilities, this entire process could be automated. 

Some security approaches developed in IT port beautifully to OT, but in this case, patching, what worked so well in IT doesn't entirely fit OT — and now it's time for industry-wide innovation beyond the choice between patch, patch, patch or letting unpatched systems run vulnerably. Our goal must be to build powerful, effective processes, and then automate them to put this new approach within the reach of industrial companies and nations on a global basis. Just because we can see this better future clearly doesn't mean it is close. But let's start now to get there, together.

Related Content:

 

Black Hat Europe returns to London Dec. 3-6, 2018, with hands-on technical Trainings, cutting-edge Briefings, Arsenal open-source tool demonstrations, top-tier security solutions, and service providers in the Business Hall. Click for information on the conference and to register.

Satish joined San Jose-based ABB in February 2017 as chief security officer and Group VP, architecture and analytics, ABB Ability™, responsible for the security of all products, services and cybersecurity services. Satish brings to this position a background in computer ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Microsoft, Mastercard Aim to Change Identity Management
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  12/3/2018
Windows 10 Security Questions Prove Easy for Attackers to Exploit
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  12/5/2018
Starwood Breach Reaction Focuses on 4-Year Dwell
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  12/5/2018
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: I guess this answers the question: who's watching the watchers?
Current Issue
10 Best Practices That Could Reshape Your IT Security Department
This Dark Reading Tech Digest, explores ten best practices that could reshape IT security departments.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2018-19991
PUBLISHED: 2018-12-10
VeryNginx 0.3.3 allows remote attackers to bypass the Web Application Firewall feature because there is no error handler (for get_uri_args or get_post_args) to block the API misuse described in CVE-2018-9230.
CVE-2018-19653
PUBLISHED: 2018-12-09
HashiCorp Consul 0.5.1 through 1.4.0 can use cleartext agent-to-agent RPC communication because the verify_outgoing setting is improperly documented. NOTE: the vendor has provided reconfiguration steps that do not require a software upgrade.
CVE-2018-19982
PUBLISHED: 2018-12-09
An issue was discovered on KT MC01507L Z-Wave S0 devices. It occurs because HPKP is not implemented. The communication architecture is APP > Server > Controller (HUB) > Node (products which are controlled by HUB). The prerequisite is that the attacker is on the same network as the target HU...
CVE-2018-19983
PUBLISHED: 2018-12-09
An issue was discovered on Sigma Design Z-Wave S0 through S2 devices. An attacker first prepares a Z-Wave frame-transmission program (e.g., Z-Wave PC Controller, OpenZWave, CC1110, etc.). Next, the attacker conducts a DoS attack against the Z-Wave S0 Security version product by continuously sending ...
CVE-2018-19980
PUBLISHED: 2018-12-08
Anker Nebula Capsule Pro NBUI_M1_V2.1.9 devices allow attackers to cause a denial of service (reboot of the underlying Android 7.1.2 operating system) via a crafted application that sends data to WifiService.