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Is your SCADA system properly protected?

With Siemens recent announcement about an attack on its SCADA system by the Stuxnet virus, other automation specialists have been urged to review their control-system-security.

SCADA systems now seem to be firmly on the target list for criminals, hackers and virus distributors as demonstrated by the the Siemens’ SCADA security. According to a leading Data Defence specialist, this is an indication of how at risk the manufacturing, infrastructure and engineering industries are.

David Robinson, UK and Ireland country manager, Norman Data Defense said: "If an organisation the size of Siemens can see its control systems come under attack, then that shows how ‘at risk’ many other organisations that operate these systems are."

The Siemens security breach was reportedly caused by the Stuxnet virus being carried on a USB memory stick. This new type of virus has a boot file built-in which activates as soon as the memory stick is powered up on insertion into a USB port. But, warns Robinson, who has 15 years experience working with companies such as Mistubishi, Rockwell and Intellution working on SCADA and plant intelligence software: "It is not just memory sticks that are putting these systems at risk.

"These days anyone with a laptop or a device that connects remotely to a wireless network inside a company’s firewall, is putting that company at risk. It will just be a matter of time before Stuxnet is evolved to wreak havoc on control systems and any other system that the user connects to if their laptop or portable device is infected."

Norman Data Defense recently carried out research among ordinary workers and found that over half of people surveyed are more cautious with security issues when using their own PC/laptop that they are with their work one. And over three quarters of people would expect a pop up to appear on their screen to alert them to a breach of security which of course is not always going to happen.

Microsoft has issued patches to help users on Windows systems to protect themselves against Stuxnet, but, warns Robinson: ‘My fear is that, with patch management protocols rarely in place in a control system environment, these warnings will go unheeded.’

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