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Computer Virus in Electric Utility in Australia
A computer virus caused serious problems recently for an Australian electric utility.

There were reports in the news recently that a computer virus caused serious problems earlier this month for an electric utility in NSW and Queensland in Australia. The news reports that I have seen about it were vague and conflicting. I was wondering if anyone had any solid news on what went on (as opposed to the rumours that are floating around).

The story as I understand it is:

1) An electric utility in NSW and Queensland in Australia was severely affected by a computer virus at the beginning of October.

2) The problem apparently originated in their business systems.

3) There was no effective separation between the business systems and the control systems.

4) The operating system which the control system runs on used Solaris. However, the operator stations which were used to interact with the controls ran X terminal software on PCs using MS Windows. These MS Windows workstations were directly vulnerable to the virus.

5) As a result of the above, the virus affected the operator control stations and prevented the operators from monitoring or interacting with the control system (which itself was still functioning).

6) Outside help had to be brought in to deal with the problem, and dealing with it was a long and expensive process.

The news reports that I have seen so far on this have been vague and confused. I was hoping that something more solid would turn up later, but so far nothing has.

I was wondering if anyone had any substantial information on:

a) What took place, particularly with regards to how it started,

b) What was affected,

c) How long it took to get under control, and

d) what temporary and permanent measures were taken to deal with it.

It would also be interesting to hear what measures anyone else has taken to prevent a similar or more serious problem from occurring in their own SCADA, HMI, or other system. I suspect that the typical SCADA, HMI, or plant historian system would be much more vulnerable than was the case in this instance.

I am also interested in knowing the details about this case. In our installation, the SCADA/PLC Network is connected to business servers through a client station. In other words, one Control Client of SCADA/PLC network (this is the development station) has two Fiber Optic Network interfaces (NIC Modules) and one each is connected to control and business network respectively. We use a lot of VB based programs (Old DDE technique) that generate production reports for higher management and puts them on the Business Network. This station is working as a network bridge between the two networks. All our software is based on Windows based Operating System and hence we are worried that viruses may creep in to our control network through business network. We are using Norton Anti-virus in all our networks and it is regularly updated. Ours is 24X7 manufacturing unit and hence it is necessary that we do not have any plant outages due to infected stations/servers. Please advise and comment.

In reply to RK Sastry: I can imagine a number of ways to improve your system. However the fact that the bridge and report generation functions are combined in one system adds an unknown complicating factor.

I think the "bridge" system needs to be something that doesn't have the same vulnerabilities as what you are attempting to protect. As it stands now, the bridge can get infected and then in turn pass on the problem to all the systems on the control side of the network. In other words, so far as viruses, worms, and other similar problems are concerned, your control network is connected to your business network.

I think the most straightforward solution to this is to simply replace the current "bridge" system with one running a different operating system (Linux, BSD, OpenSolaris, etc.). The report generator could be a normal web application.

A program running somewhere on the control network would stuff data into the (we'll call it "report bridge"). The "report bridge" would store the information in a database. Reports would be generated using standard web application techniques (the report gets generated on the fly when you request a web page).

This means replacing your existing report system because the VB programs won't run on the new system. I considered the possibility of keeping the existing report scripts by adding another computer to the system, but that adds a lot of complication. This isn't something that people would appreciate very much later if they have to troubleshoot problems or make changes.

If you want to discuss the above further let me know. The details would depend on what protocols you can use to communicate with the SCADA system.

As for your anti-virus systems, I'm not a big fan of depending on anti-virus. When a new virus (or worm, or whatever) is going around, the anti-virus won't help you until an update for it is available. Viruses spread the most rapidly in the first 24 to 36 hours of their existence. Since your control network is managed separately, I assume you are updating the virus signatures manually, if at all.

Also, sometimes the anti-virus programs seem to be worse than the viruses in causing disruption. You probably shouldn't deploy an anti-virus update until you have had a chance to test how it affects your SCADA system.

All this means there is probably a gap in your coverage just at the time when you need it the most. I'm not saying to not use anti-virus at all, but I am saying that I think the protection it offers is very limited.

By Andrey Romanenko on 13 October, 2009 - 8:30 am

Hello,

I agree with Michael's ideas on the replacement of the bridge with a more robust OS and eventually moving away the reporting to another station.

Ciengis has an open-source solution called Plantstreamer that is a plant historian that runs on Linux (or any other java enabled platform). It gets the data via OPC and stores it in a PostgreSQL database. A separate web based system, Plantbeat, is a front-end for the database with many features including online reporting, performance monitoring, etc. We also use Openreports for on-the-fly and offline reporting. The latter creates periodic reports and either stores them or sends them via email to the interested authorized users.

Currently the systems are used at a large petrochemical site performing very well.

I suggest you take a look at Michael's open-source project Mblogic, too, because it provides an interesting web-based HMI and automation platform.

In either case windows viruses stand no chance in these environments.

Please contact me if you are interested in Plantstreamer and Plantbeat.


Best Regards,
Andrey Romanenko
andrey at ciengis dot com

We are also a 24x7 manufacturing unit having three standalone SCADA running on Windows platform. I meanwhile explored to "network" these SCADA with our Business network (i.e. LAN). But the vendor who supplied the system was not very happy with the idea. He suggested me to install a Router and Firewall in between SCADA systems and Business Network to bridge two networks. Ultimately judging the risk of viruses, I dropped the project.

By curt wuollet on 13 October, 2009 - 3:37 pm

Probably a very wise decision.

Regards,
cww

In reply to Dilip: Standard routers and firewalls can help somewhat with older types of worms, or at least mitigate the consequences. Their effectiveness is limited against modern worms, which often operate by exploiting holes in permitted actions (e.g. buffer overflows and SQL injection). They are generally useless against viruses.

I don't think that normal routers and firewalls are the answer to your situation. You would need something that examines the actual data to decide what to let through.

By curt wuollet on 12 October, 2009 - 11:54 am

The scanty information I read said that the idiots had their operation dependent on Windows even though they didn't think it was. It was just a matter of time.

Regards,
cww

Could it be this?

"A virus outbreak is wreaking havoc with Integral Energy's computer network, forcing it to rebuild all 1000 of its desktop computers before the "particularly sinister" bug spreads to the machines controlling the power grid."

read on here
http://www.smh.com.au/technology/security/sinister-integral-energy-virus-outbreak-a-threat-to-power-grid-20091001-gdrx.html

Actually it looks like their virus protection was out of date too.

I'm not sure this is any more solid but check out the first two threads:

http://news.infracritical.com/pipermail/scadasec/2009-October/thread.htm
l

Best,
B.O. Oct. 13, 2009

And here
http://www.integral.com.au/wps/wcm/connect/2dc9fa804fc929beb9c3bd1b70e88c03/virus+webfacts.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=2dc9fa804fc929beb9c3bd1b70e88c03

You will find:
2 October 2009

The facts: IT virus contained and controlled
Integral Energy has successfully contained the W32/Virut virus.

It only infects executable files (.exe).

This incident has not affected electricity supplies to our customers, nor has it threatened the power grid.

Service levels to customers have been maintained.

This incident has not compromised Integral Energy's data.

Data transfers to and from Integral Energy via a website or file transfer protocol (FTP) do not pose a threat to other parties.

Integral Energy has put in place recovery plans to eliminate the virus from its business systems. This involves rebuilding personal computers.

As part of these plans, an investigation is underway into the source and cause of the virus.

The majority of issues resulting from this virus have now been resolved.

Integral Energy is reviewing strategies to minimize this risk in the future

By curt wuollet on 13 October, 2009 - 5:48 pm

Yes, nothing to see here, move along! For every one of these that goes public there are at least 10 that are kept secret for security reasons. If their concept of security wasn't a joke, we wouldn't be reading about them. Windows security is an oxymoron.

Regards,
cww

Hello Michael,

Thank you for posting this as I am trying to keep some kind of log on incidents like this as I have had some exposure to this before.

I looked up the incident and found the following perhaps you did the same but I thought I'd include the links anyway

"http://www.smh.com.au/technology/security/sinister-integral-energy-virus-outbreak-a-threat-to-power-grid-20091001-gdrx.html"

"http://www.zdnet.com.au/news/security/soa/Virus-hits-Integral-Energy-desktops/0,130061744,339298861,00.htm?feed=rssC&omnRef=http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9595_22-348060.html"

Regarding measures to be taken, the best publicly available guidance I've seen is the NIST doc SP800-82. Be prepared for some reading!

"http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/PubsDrafts.html"

There is also an ISA standard SP99 but you have to pay for that.

Having read both NIST, ISA and more generally as well as having to put some of these principles into practice I think they have a reasonable stance i.e. don't put all your eggs in one basket (as my mother used to say). Practically they recognise some of the difficulties.

There are a significant number of Windows machines on operator consoles and operating as control system servers in my experience and there would be no Linux fallback as you suspect. And there's no hope of changing this in any short timeframe despite those they may desire otherwise.

Hope this helps
DaveMH

In response to various posts: I was aware of the Sydney Morning Herald report, but that was one of the vague and conflicting reports I was referring to. The Inquirer link had a bit more information, but that was based on a Slashdot post, which is not exactly one of the most reliable sources.

There was a more serious incident several years ago at a nuclear power plant in the USA.
http://www.securityfocus.com/news/6767

The article starts: "The Slammer worm penetrated a private computer network at Ohio's Davis-Besse nuclear power plant in January and disabled a safety monitoring system for nearly five hours, despite a belief by plant personnel that the network was protected by a firewall, (...)"

As for security "solutions", here's a couple of examples:

The following adds Modbus/TCP related features to the standard Linux Netfilter packet filtering:
http://modbusfw.sourceforge.net/

The following is a commercial product which I believe is also based on Linux Netfilter:
http://www.tofinosecurity.com/

For complex systems, a Netfilter type solution might be the only solution. The problem I see with this though is you have to decide what to let through and what to block. If you do that wrong, then you don't have the protection that you thought you did.

Furthermore, a lot of application vulnerabilities consist of sending "legitimate" data that just happens to exploit a bug in a program. That means that you can have the filtering set up perfectly as to specification, but still be vulnerable in practise.

Most people though seem to have relatively simple requirements where they simply want to make report and status data available to the business network. I think that a computer that sits on both the business and control networks is a more straight forward solution, provided it is a computer which doesn't have the same problems that the business and control computers do.

Even with that isolation though, the control system is still not fully protected. At the nuclear plant mentioned above, most of the control system was immune to the worm itself. However, the worm was scanning (for other targets to attack) so actively that it clogged up the network so that the otherwise unaffected systems couldn't communicate reliably. In other words, if you depend on the network for anything important it only takes *one* vulnerable computer to compromise the whole system.

All it takes is for someone to plug a USB stick into one of the computers (the default configuration for MS Windows is to automatically run programs on it) or to plug a laptop into the network and you have a big problem.

The answer the SCADA (and related) industry to all this seems to be to wash their hands of the whole affair and say that security is the customer's problem. I don't think that is a reasonable approach. However, I suspect that the vendors of the most popular SCADA systems don't have the knowledge or experience to deal with the real problem effectively.

Michael

I don't think it is entirely fair to say that all vendors wash their hands and say it is the customers problem (I don't work for a vendor before anybody asks). Some vendors do have some expertise in this area. But, nobody know it all. There is work going on to address some of the frailties that are particular to control systems both within vendors and as a collaborative body e.g.

"http://www.wurldtech.com/services/certified_devices.html"

Admittedly some of this is driven by commercial imperatives and this should not be the only solution. But, responsible people (from all types of companies) are thinking about this and trying to do something. I expect it will be a slow process and mistakes will be made and I don't believe total security will ever be possible.

For the reasons you highlighted defense in depth is important. Don't rely upon filters and firewalls alone or single box solutions of any type. There will be errors or ways round (e.g. USB sticks, mobile devices). Use simple solutions for simple situations and small degrees of risk.

Ultimately the responsibility for security lies with those on the operating site as they are the ones left after the project team and vendors walk away. And also those that provide the link to business systems. Responsible ones are developing their own polices and still learning themselves. If you have a customer who doesn't, help them come to an informed, rational design decision without resorting to alarmist language. Security nazis are as unhelpful as any other type, as are cynics.

We are, hopefully, engineers seeking practical solutions, in the real world.

DaveMH

In reply to DaveMH: You said: "Ultimately the responsibility for security lies with those on the operating site as they are the ones left after the project team and vendors walk away."

That's the problem that I'm talking about. I'm not in the SCADA business, and it's quite possible that I don't know what I am talking about. However, it appears to me that many SCADA systems bear a lot of resemblance to important business systems.

In those systems, the vendors don't "walk away" unless you want them to. They stand behind their systems completely for as long as you have it. Now they do expect to get paid for that. But if a large business's directors can approve a support contract for a bean counting system, they can approve one for the system that is responsible for actually making the money.

I can get a disk that has an operating system, database, web server, development software, and everything else I need from a single vendor. If the system matters enough to me, I can buy an annual contract where they will give me 24/7 support to stand behind every piece of software that was on that disk. There's no finger pointing at other vendors. They take responsibility for everything. There are even multiple vendors selling the same thing, so I can shop around for the best price or service. Now, why isn't the SCADA business more like that?

To be fair, I should point out that the control system in Australia that started this discussion wasn't itself affected by the virus. It was running Solaris, which is immune to MS Windows viruses. It was the operator terminals were using MS Windows to run X terminal software which had the problem.

However, I think my main point stands. I think that to seriously address security problems requires the SCADA vendors to take more responsibility for it. And for that to work requires them to supply the complete platform, not just "their" piece of it. This model works quite successfully elsewhere, so I don't see why it couldn't work here as well.

Michael,

I think that I am more or less in agreement with your sentiment. The problem I have is that in my experience which is mostly with large operating sites the customer has to retain the responsibility for security because:

- The customer is the organisation that accepts the risk of bad things happening and receives the benefit of good things. Therefore decisions regarding risk must come from here.
- There are many different systems involved when integrating SCADA/DCS to business systems from different vendors. Each vendor cannot know everything and so there must be some coordinating party. For many reasons the customer is best placed to do this e.g. they define requirements, confidentiality. I don't think any vendor will ever supply the whole suite of applications a large business requires.

From the little dealings I've had with pure IT people this applies to business systems also.

Most large vendors that I have come across will not walk away unless you tell them to, as you said, in fact some will oversell their expertise given the chance. That said the way maintenance is done varies. Some users do it themselves others use support contracts with the vendor. It is not always visible to those that make the decision (who/how much) what the implications are even if the systems are making the money - which they are.

Some of the SCADA package vendors and PLC manufacturers have been slower on the uptake on the security issue. I think they'll some round in the end. I agree that they have to take a wider view in order to improve the state of things and to continue to work on the issue - or start - in conjunction with their customers.

Interesting debate!

DaveMH

By curt wuollet on 16 October, 2009 - 12:08 am

One of the better solutions for this connection from an automation network to a business network might be a dual homed PC with transfer between networks OOB (out of band) and no routing. If the transfer were restricted to only the data of interest, it should be fairly safe. Of course, it would need to be on a machine running an OS that is secure or obscure. Running it on Windows would accomplish nothing. But having the transfer occult to a virus writer should protect the automation network. If this sounds like a gateway, it is not. The purpose is to completely isolate the networks from each other except for a non network pass through.

Regards
cww

In reply to curt wuollet: Most of the rationals for connecting business and control networks seems to revolve around production reporting. In this case it probably makes a lot of sense to either have the "bridge" computer do the production reports itself, or to provide a web service protocol to whatever business systems want to talk to it.

That lets you control which data is writable by the business systems. As well as virus security, you don't have to worry about some nitwit in the ERP department writing over PLC addresses that he wasn't supposed to touch.

By Matt Warshawsky on 14 October, 2009 - 12:14 pm

In response to the various posts:

A firewall with no open ports (i.e. doesn't let any traffic in), would stop any worm.

If the internal SCADA system alone behind a closed firewall does not allow anyone to open email, plug in USB drives, or generally execute anything other than the SCADA system, then a virus cannot run either and there are plenty of kiosk tools that limit the user to a single application.

The problems then occur when you either open up some ports, create a VPN connection or the like, or when you allow users of your SCADA system to do things other than use the SCADA system (and often OS user security controls can help with this: i.e. no OS administrator login to run the system)

If you then want to make your data available from outside, you can push the data out using many different ways and then ignore any response. Although it is possible for the data to become corrupted once it is "outside", there is no way for a virus, worm, or hacker to get back in through the data push.

This is the idea behind DAQConnect (www.daqconnect.com). Data is pushed out to the DAQConnect servers over HTTPS and nothing comes back. You access the data on the DAQConnect servers, and thus don't have to open any ports or expose any of the normal vulnerabilities. The biggest concern in this system is actually someone stealing your DAQConnect password and somehow altering your data (or more likely editing your screens to make your data look altered). But even with your login information they can never get back to the main SCADA system to do harm.

By Matt Warshawsky on 14 October, 2009 - 12:35 pm

I guess I should add:

A firewall is actually just a piece of software running on an embedded system, so technically, although it would stop worms, it can be hacked. So really the only way to fully secure a SCADA system is to put the SCADA computers in locked boxes (so nothing external could be plugged in) running kiosk software (to prevent running any other apps), and unplugging it from any other network.

Alas, like all of life, there is the risk vs reward question. Running your SCADA system in such an environment would be secure, but then you can't take advantage of all the things integration with other systems would get you, most of which increase efficiency and profit.

So, in my opinion its best to simply reduce the risk as much as is feasible and perform two steps to ensure that if you do get hacked, get a virus or otherwise, you can quickly recover:

1) ensure that you have hardwire safeties (i.e. not running through complex logic like a PLC or PC) on everything so that the SCADA system can not possibly control your system in a way that could cause injury or property damage. This is process control 101 and applies always.

2) perform proper, rotating system backups. If recovery time is also an issue, create images of each system so they can be quickly restored.

In reply to Matt Warshawsky: It's just as well that you added those remarks in your second reply, because the first thing that came to my mind when reading your first response was that a firewall is just another piece of software, and it can have security problems as well.

Also, a lot of the newer security vulnerabilities operate by exploiting bugs in the actions that are permitted, not by doing things that can simply be blocked. Firewalls are so common these days that modern viruses and worms have to work around them all the time anyway.

Yes it's true that if you don't connect the control network to the business network, then these problems don't arise (although you can still have problems from other vectors). But you've got to remember that what we are talking about is connecting the business network to the control network so that they can share data on things like schedules, quantities, costs, results, etc. So, what we are talking about is how to deal with the risks this causes.

As for DAQConnect, I don't see that as addressing the sort of questions that we are talking about. What we are talking about here is close two-way data sharing between the control system and the business systems (ERP, managers, etc.). I can think of several pretty obvious markets for what DAQConnect can do, but I don't think this one is a good fit.

As for hardwired safeties and backups, those are mitigation strategies, not prevention. In the types of applications we are talking about here, unscheduled downtime is something to be avoided at all costs. In those cases the emphasis should be on means to avoid the problems in the first place.

By Matt Warshawsky on 15 October, 2009 - 3:18 am

Yes, you are correct on everything you said. In my opinion, the reason there are so many security vulnerabilities is that protocols are often designed to do too much, perhaps to make them more marketable, perhaps because they aren't designed for control systems. In the end, the KISS mantra should really be utilized. Passing simple data between two different machines shouldn't require a complex protocol, and therefore should be easy to code without creating security holes. But alas, most protocols try and do everything and thus the problems.

You are correct, DAQConnect is not a good fit for connection to business systems. It was just an example of how data can get out of a system without creating any security issues in the system itself.

As for hardwire safeties and backups, my point wasn't that you shouldn't do whatever you can to avoid the problem, but simply that with these safeties in place, you can safely balance the risk vs reward/cost of implementation. Yes downtime can be expensive, but that has to be compared to the chance of a problem happening and the cost to prevent it. Many security strategies are inexpensive to implement and should always be in place, but there is no reason to implement a million dollar security strategy if a virus can only cause $50,000 of downtime costs because you had good backups. Some of these articles quoted really seem to try and invoke fear, but really its just standard business risk analysis.

By Matt Warshawsky on 15 October, 2009 - 3:32 am

OK, here is an idea to solve the problem: instead of connecting the business network and the control network over Ethernet, use a serial connection to pass the data. The control network remains standalone with no outside contact except for the serial connection. What virus or worm could possibly transmit across a serial connection? It'd have to be pretty targeted. A denial of service attack would have no effect. If the business network went down, the control network would simply be unable to get the business data, but otherwise would be unaffected.

Thoughts?

By Andrey Romanenko on 15 October, 2009 - 8:08 am

>OK, here is an idea to solve the problem: instead of connecting the business network and the control network ....

[]

No, this is not sufficient. Just run PPP or good old SLIP protocol on the serial wire, run TCPIP over that and open up DCOM and the virus will be able to crawl in. Another example is that you cannot avoid viruses switching from Ethernet to wifi or fiber optic or Arcnet. What is important is what protocol you run over the physical medium and how much of the system you have to expose to use it.

In that respect, as simple protocol like Modbus RTU or ASCII may work better on a serial cable. Probably it is still possible to carry out stack smashing via badly formatted packets but good software should have relevant checks. In any case, the consequences are far from those of a virus attack as there will be no propagation.

I have heard some plant DCS have one-way links to the outside through a few digital outputs. You can also cut off TXD on one end of the serial cable and only send data, but then you will not be able to run Modbus or any other handshake requiring protocol (not even Modbus).

Best Regards,
Andrey Romanenko
Ciengis - Advanced Process Control and Optimization

In reply to Matt Warshawsky: I don't think we need to go to the lengths of installing serial connections to avoid this problem. If we look at the Australian incident, we see that the control systems which were running Solaris (a brand of Unix) were not themselves infected by the virus. It was the operator terminals which were using MS Windows to run X-terminal software which were affected.

In one of the news reports cited by another poster, the company regained control of their system by bringing over some computers from their software developers that used Linux (which was also immune to the viruses). That wouldn't have been a "million dollar security strategy". That would have been *cheaper* than the insecure method they had been using.

When we are talking about viruses, we need to be clear that this is a software problem with MS Windows. It isn't a problem that is inherent to "PCs" (however much Apple might like to equate the two).

To cover this topic completely would take more than I could possibly cover here. I'll take your example of the serial connection however.

If you simply passed through all the messages (TCP over RS-232), you would have limited the rate at which data could be transferred, but that wouldn't actually stop a virus. What you would need to do is to decide to only allow certain specific data to pass between the two systems and to provide an application program which does that task only.

As an example, have a computer with two network cards. One network card connects to the business network, while the other connects to the control network. Install an OS that isn't affect by viruses (Solaris, Linux, BSD, etc.).

Next, find or write a program that acts as a proxy between the two systems. On the business side it provides a web service protocol that the ERP and reporting systems can poll to read or write certain defined values (production quantities, part numbers, reject rates, cycle times, etc.).

On the control side it would offer a common industrial protocol to talk to the control devices. It could do this as a server, in which case the polling rate would be dictated by the control devices. It could do this as a client, in which case the polling rates and target clients would be scanned at a fixed rate determined in a configuration.

Both sides of this transaction would store their data in a common data table. That would decouple the scanning rates from any events happening on either side.

Now that is a fairly simple solution, and it has a lot of advantages besides just security. For example, it decouples the ERP and reporting systems from the individual controls, so you can make major changes to the controls without involving other departments.

So, there are a lot of solutions to these types of problems. I don't think the traditional ostrich approach (install anti-virus and pray) however is a good one.

By Matt Warshawsky on 15 October, 2009 - 4:24 pm

It was never my intention to simply pass the same traffic over serial, but instead to use a simple protocol like Modbus. As mentioned, there needs to be decoupling and by using serial instead of TCP in addition to protocol decoupling, you ensure that the OS or other software doesn't, without your knowledge, start using the transport layer (serial) to do things it shouldn't. With two ethernet cards and software you could decouple in software, but I'd be worried that the OS would use the second cards to pass traffic without my knowledge.

As for other OS's not having virus, that is not really correct. Any OS is subject to viruses, windows just happens be have the most by a rather large margin. This is partially because its the most used OS, especially by end-users who don't know better. Some may argue also that its because the OS itself isn't as secure (probably because it does too much).

And while other OS's may be more secure, they also require a fair bit more expertise to install, or at least less commonly available expertise. Windows systems are very easy to install and so while the licensing costs may be higher than an open source linux install, the installation and maintenance costs are likely much lower. I am not saying I'm a big lover of Windows, but most of the companies I work with are much smaller than this company we keep referencing and can't always afford to have the expertise to maintain these other OS's on staff or retainer.

I suppose to some extent we are going around in circles. There really is no one solution for this problem and each installation must be evaluated separately based on needs, risk, and budget. But as said, in all instances we can't just stick our heads in the sand and rely on antivirus to save us.

In reply to Matt Warshawsky: I don't want to flog this issue to death, but there are a couple of points you brought up that I want to address.

First, you said: "As for other OS's not having virus, that is not really correct. Any OS is subject to viruses ..."

Yes, in theory viruses could affect any programmable device. The engine controller in your car could in theory get a virus. A PLC could in theory get a virus. But I like to be a practical sort of guy. Let's look at what viruses are *actually* affecting, not what hypothetically could happen. When we're talking about viruses, we're talking about Microsoft Windows.

If you are using Solaris (as in Australia) or Linux, or BSD, you're not going to get a virus because there aren't any that run on those operating systems. Most high volume servers that are connected to the Internet today use one of those operating systems, so it hasn't been for lack of opportunity. There aren't any viruses for them now and that probably isn't going to change any time in the near future either.

As for ease of installation, with a typical desktop Linux distro, you stick a disk in the computer, answer a few questions, (what time zone are you in, what password do you want to use, etc.), and then walk away. 20 minutes later you come back and it's done, including having installed all your application software at the same time.

I don't see why SCADA vendors can't do the same. Since the OS and application software would all be set up together as part of one process they could set things to whatever reasonable security defaults they recommend. It's for ease of use reasons that I think they should do this. If you are counting on every SCADA user to figure out security for themselves, it simply isn't going to happen. If there's a reason the vendors don't do something like this, it's a business reason, not a technical one.

By curt wuollet on 17 October, 2009 - 1:13 am

Yes, the complete package idea is an extremely powerful idea. Imagine how much you could cut your support costs if every customer at least started with the same configuration. Same OS, same version, no SP this or that. Half the questions on here seem to be how do I get this to work with that. Easy to do, as this is the norm for Linux distributions, they come up with the applications installed. And for the user, it would be even easier than having a good installer, your app would just be there and work. No DLL hell, no virii, no incompatibility. And no obsolescence, you can use the same set up as long as you like. Or you can attempt to handle the Windows chaos and churn. Hard to understand why vendors want to do that.

Regards,
cww

By curt wuollet on 17 October, 2009 - 1:18 am

Yes, but in any case, all they could trash was the "office" side with good coding. In most cases you could make it one way so it's read only.

Regards,
cww

By curt wuollet on 16 October, 2009 - 12:30 am

I just posted much the same thought. But the connection doesn't have to be serial. Anything unique enough to be outside the malware's scope would work. Shared memory would be network fast and flexible. And since the generic worm or virus would "know" nothing about it, it would be secure. The whole problem is using well known, insecure methods and software.

Regards
cww

How about this design?

All terminals and servers on the SCADA network runs Linux, with operator terminals as touch screen kiosks. A few admin terminals and development terminals in this network should be allowed to have normal PC environment (no windows, all linux) but controlled under strict security policies and operated by knowledgeable staff only.

Business network is the usual collection of Windows desktops and Windows/Linux servers. Should be operated under security policies also, but not trusted. Connection to Internet is allowed.

A PC running linux having two network cards is connected to both networks. All bridging is STOPPED. The networks cannot see one another. This pc runs a webserver, and all other network access from the business side is blocked. No files will be exchanged. Only webservice request/responses will be allowed.

I don't see any threat from the business side reaching the SCADA. Corrupting the operator kiosks is prevented by refusing physical access to the system box.

In reply to Yeasir Rahul: That would work, and it would have prevented the virus problem the company in Australia had.