Implementing Host Security & Access Controls in Industrial Networks

Instructor: Erik Rodriguez

Erik has experience working in Cybersecurity and has a Master's of Science in Information Systems.

In this lesson, we will discuss how security analysts implement security controls in industrial networks. We will also briefly review how the CIA triad is used to design security policies for industrial networks.

Mitigating Cyber Threats

Much like all technology in use today, industrial networks are susceptible to various cyber attacks. One way to mitigate this is to implement host security and access controls throughout the industrial network. Security analysts use these tools as part of a bigger security plan that is designed to prevent or defend against cyber attacks. Due to the critical infrastructure in modern industrial networks and the role it plays in our modern society, implementing these tools is now more important than ever.

Host Security and Access Controls

Security analysts can implement host security or access controls in industrial networks to mitigate a multitude of vulnerabilities and cyber attacks. Which one is implemented, however, depends on the type of security issue being addressed. Host security, for example, refers to a category of security tools that are deployed at the host level. This can include anti-virus software that is installed at a workstation to detect if malware infects the computer. Access controls are methods used to ensure that only authorized individuals have access to specific resources in a network. This can include requiring personnel to swipe a smart card in order to gain entry to a server room.

Anti-virus software is an example of host security
anti-virus

Examples in Industrial Networks

Host Security

Installing and maintaining critical system updates is an example of how host-based security is implemented in an industrial network. Many vulnerabilities that hackers exploit are derived from unpatched operating systems and applications. Typically, when a vulnerability is discovered by the software manufacturer, critical updates are issued out soon after to patch it up. Suppose a workstation at a water treatment plant has not received an update patching a vulnerability that would allow a hacker to remotely access the computer. The hacker can infiltrate the plant's network via this vulnerability and cause critical processes to halt, affecting the community's access to clean water.

Critical system updates are used to patch known vulnerabilities in software
updates

Another example would be a Host-Based Intrusion Detection System (HIDS). A HIDS is a tool used to monitor traffic to and from the computer in which it is deployed. The HIDS will then alert network administrators or security analysts when it detects suspicious traffic resembling an intrusion attempt. Large industrial networks, such as those seen in large electrical grids, can benefit greatly from a HIDS due to its versatility. Additionally, security analysts can have a better overview of each computer's traffic since each workstation will have its own dedicated HIDS.

Access Controls

Access controls are perhaps the most common type of security control used in industrial networks. Barriers such as fences and gates are commonly used in conjunction with security guards to ward off potential trespassers to a plant. However, other access controls can be used to defend critical systems in an industrial network. For instance, biometric systems can be used in a nuclear power plant to allow authorized personnel into the power plant's control room. Biometrics refers to any measurements or analysis of the human body. Biometrics are at times preferred to passcodes or pins since they are difficult to reproduce and they are something the user always has with them.

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