How to make critical infrastructure more secure — there’s a long way to go

Make critical infrastructure more secure at Ars Frontiers. Click here to see the scoreboard.

During my run to Ars Frontiers, I had the opportunity to speak with Lesley Carhart, the director of Incident Response at Dragos. Known on Twitter as @ hacks4pancakes, Carhart is a veteran responder to network incidents affecting critical infrastructure and has dealt with operational technology and industrial control system (OT) security challenges in many years. So it seems appropriate for her to take on what needs to be done to improve the security of critical infrastructure both in industry and government, especially in light of what is happening in the country. Ukraine.

Much of it is not new territory. “One thing that we have noticed over the years in the industrial cybersecurity space is that people from all different organizations, both militaries and terrorists around the world, are pre-positioned to perform doing things like sabotage and espionage through computers for many years,” explains Carhart. But these rarely get attention because they’re not flashy — and as a result, they don’t attract the attention of wallet holders for the investments that can fix them.

As a result, Carhart said, organizations that aim to benefit from the exploitation of industrial technology have spent years “trying to build their capacity so that when a geopolitical situation arises, they will do so effectively, [they would] can attack infrastructure systems using cyberspace”.

An example of these possibilities is Pipe dream“a set of tools that can be used to potentially break into industrial control systems and cause impact on certain types of systems,” notes Carhart. Pipedream already discovered by security experts before it could be used to deal damage, but it does demonstrate that “people are pre-positioned to do things in the future,” Carhart said. “They have learned over the years, and certainly over the past few months, that sabotage, espionage and information activities can be extremely valuable as an element of traditional warfare… to discredit enemy spirit, sowing confusion and dissent, and also impacting the services that civilians use while they are also dealing with an armed conflict. “

Many people are trying to secure industrial networks, and much is being done to improve the security of industrial systems and prepare for failure. However, “some industries have much better resources than others” for those tasks, Carhart noted. City-owned utilities do not have the same resource background as large corporations with huge cybersecurity resources. The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency and other organizations are trying to help provide needed resources to city agencies and other smaller facilities. But how much CISA can do in the future to protect these organizations and other critical state and local infrastructure providers is an open question.

Active technology has a much longer lifecycle than “normal” IT. We’ve talked about what that means, both from the standpoint of ensuring the security of the existing Old Testament and finding people to do the important work to establish and maintain that security. While some improvements are coming to security as Windows 10 makes its way into embedded systems and other OT versions, Carhart said, “we will probably see Windows 10 in 30 years in those environments” — and with it, many security challenges that IT has faced over the years.

List image by gremlin / Getty Images

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