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Trust, security and business benefit – Consumer identities done right

Aug 04, 2015 by Matthias Reinwarth

The Digital Transformation is a game changer for many traditional organisations and a business enabler for many new trading companies and service providers in the digital world. When dealing with consumers and customers directly the most important asset for any forward-thinking organisation is the data provided and collected for these new type of identities. The appropriate management of consumer identities is of utmost importance.

Handing over personal data to a commercial organisation the consumer typically does this with two contrasting expectations. On the one hand the consumer wants to benefit from the organisation as a contract partner for goods or services. This should be as efficient as possible at a sophisticating level of user experience. Customer-facing organizations get into direct contact with their customers today as they are accessing their products and services through various channels and deploying various types of devices. It is essential to know the relevant attributes of that customer at the right time. The reasons for this are obvious: An improved user experience leads to customer satisfaction and thus to returning customers. User self-service leads to high effectiveness and cost-efficiency while speeding up processes.

Selecting the right items of information and a proper understanding of the quality and reliability of that data are essential management tasks. Customer identities are the result of the ongoing consolidation of data from various sources, including initial registration information, payment data, search requests, purchase history or helpdesk interaction. Consumers use various devices to access required services and they use different accounts in different contexts. Data gathered from external sources can be outdated, partially inaccurate or even deliberately wrong or misleading, especially when collected from social media. Business-relevant information is a superset of several types of information, including business-internal information, which has to be consolidated and assessed well.

On the other hand, the act of providing personal information to a commercial organisation will only be possible when the consumer can expect the required level of trustworthiness and security being applied to personal data. Trust is essential and losing this trust will inevitably endanger the business model and thus threaten the existence of an enterprise. This has been made evident by the high number of recent, massive data breaches. And losing trust into e.g. an online picture printing service or the payment card service provider potentially corrupts trust into many types of online services.

The key challenge is finding the right balance between collecting and consolidating all business-relevant data for the benefit of the consumer and the organization itself, while acting as a trusted custodian of data the consumer has entrusted the organization with. When aiming at long-term sustainable customer relationships it is mandatory to integrate the proper handling of collected, personal data into all business processes, while being compliant to regulatory requirements and data protection laws. This has to be accompanied by a continuous review and improvement process as security and compliance are evolving processes themselves.

This article has originally appeared in KuppingerCole Analysts' View newsletter.


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Making Use of Consumer Identities

Aug 04, 2015 by David Goodman

Companies across multiple vertical sectors are encountering challenges and opportunities that are shaping the future direction of consumer identity-centric business. Faced with the erosion of revenues from the rapid encroachment of challengers into their traditional market strongholds, many companies are realising that data represents their most significant asset to provide added value to their customers in the future. Key to this transformation will be how companies manage users’ digital identity data better and position themselves as secure identity brokers/providers in a highly competitive market. The enterprise’s data sources are as diverse as billing and payments, the CRM database, web portals, social media and customer services which can then be translated with good analytics into improving the customer experience and relationship as a whole. The most transparent business opportunities are driven by insights based on user behaviour which when connected to business processes can drive actions. When automated and real-time, decision-making becomes quicker and more efficient.

For most businesses, leveraging consumer identity profiles was not seen as a value added service or a revenue generator. But it’s recommended for that to change by:

  • Exploring ways in which to refresh or cement relationships with customers by reaching out and offering new identity-based services.
  • Collating and analysing the data that exists across customer-related databases to provide comprehensive profiles that can be shared with users.
  • Working with regulators to benefit from the new EU legislation on electronic identities, authentication services and data protection that will be mandatory in 2018: those companies that embrace the changes early can turn the regulation to their advantage.

Until recently most users were oblivious to the personal information held by the public and private sectors, which when collated through sophisticated analytics offered comprehensive and often revealing profiles. Or at least they were. With the recent revelations on data breaches, users everywhere are very concerned about the security and the privacy of their online identity personas. The Snowden revelations inter alia have revealed the susceptibility of the records kept by governments as well as the private sector. It is only a matter of time before all organisations’ data handling comes under scrutiny, added to which the EU is bringing in legislation to harmonise how data is handled by all companies operating in Europe.

Today it’s clear that being a formal identity provider would not even cover the necessary infrastructure costs. But, given the revenue shrinkage elsewhere and the fickleness of customer loyalty, with cheaper alternatives emerging to providing key products and services, this is an ideal time for more companies to step forward and embrace the emerging requirements of digital identity management.

All industries are going to be affected by the legislative changes in digital identities, trust services, privacy and data protection that are coming to both the public and private sectors in Europe. Many businesses may consider becoming identity service providers as a luxury rather than a necessity to remain in business and succeed, but, if the opportunity is taken, the results could well turn out to exceed expectations.

This article has originally appeared in KuppingerCole Analysts' View newsletter.


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Dealing with risks in IoT and Smart Manufacturing: Time to rethink your (not only IT) security organization

Aug 03, 2015 by Martin Kuppinger

Let me start with two recent experiences I have had.

Just recently, I was sitting in front of a number of CISOs and had the opportunity to ask them how many of them also had responsibility for IoT and smart manufacturing in their organization. The simple answer: none of the CISOs had. At best, they were informed, but neither responsible nor accountable.

The other one was a conversation in which a business partner, in the context of my recent blog post on Shodan, started complaining about the ignorance of CIOs and CISOs regarding the risks for both Operational Technology environments in smart manufacturing and for IoT in connected things.

While these days we can read a lot about the future role of CIOs, the even more important question appears to be the new role of the CISO and what the future IT security organization must look like.

The fundamentals for restructuring the (not only IT) security organization are:

  • Governance and operations must be kept separate.
  • Operational aspects of security must move into the business divisions, e.g. manufacturing or R&D (when e.g. developing connected things)
  • There must be a comprehensive responsibility for security, across business IT, OT (including but not limited to smart manufacturing), and IoT security.

Just as we have legislative, executive, and judiciary split in government, we need to split responsibilities in our organization. That, in consequence, means that the CISO must not be a subordinate to the CIO, but part of the governance organization. Given the current state of cyber risk, the CISO should be a direct report to the board, in particular to the board member owning responsibility for governance, which most commonly is the CFO or COO.

Unfortunately, the role of CISOs is heavily undervalued in many organizations, which might relate back to the days where organizations did not need a CISO but only had a corporate data protection officer with limited responsibilities. That has changed, and it must become reflected in the organizational structure. I have seen large multi-national organizations where the CISO is three levels below the board, which is just ridiculous.

For the (not only) IT security organization, keeping governance and operations separate also means that there is security governance and security operations. Implementing security is an operational task. It must become an integral part of organizational entities. There must not be separate security organizations anymore, but security must be part of each area of IT, wherever applicable to manufacturing, and part of everything from research to support around connected devices. But governance, from guidelines to auditing, is the job of the CISO.

Notably, there is one part of the security organization that appears to be operational, but should belong to the CISOs department: what we commonly call Security Operations Centers (SOCs) is from my perspective part of the governance function, not the operational function within security. Aside from that, it is cross-divisional (Business IT, OT, etc.), thus it is best placed in the CISOs responsibility.

With the broader view on security, beyond business IT, and the hyper-connected environments we already have, we must get rid of siloed approaches. Smart manufacturing is about connecting business IT and manufacturing. Thus, there must be a central responsibility for IT governance, while operational implementation of security must happen in in the various divisions, with well-defined communication and interfaces in between.

As implementing security becomes part of the operational responsibility, it also should become one of the manager’s objectives. If a manager fails in risk identification and mitigation, he has failed in achieving his business targets. As of today, risk ignorance appears to be the better choice for many managers in trying to achieve their targets. Risk mitigation causes cost. This is a challenge from a short-term, personal perspective. From a mid-term perspective, understanding risks, mitigating these or at least preparing for incidents will save money – which is a positive from an enterprise perspective. Fixing audit findings in “panic mode” costs far more than any other approach.

Redefining the role of the CISO the way described above will also help in getting better in dealing with risks ahead of incidents, because the CISO’s job is to identify risks and propose mitigations – not to ignore them.


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Why security increases agility, not inhibits it

Jul 30, 2015 by Martin Kuppinger

A common complaint against Information Security (be it IT security, OT security, or IoT security) is that security costs money but doesn’t deliver business benefits. Wrong!

In a short-term perspective, security incurs cost. Thus, quarterly reporting by organizations and short-term targets pressure security to be an afterthought. However, mid-term and long-term, this changes. It obviously is cheaper to code using simple APIs for security functions than hard-coding security into every application and maintaining that code. Application Security Infrastructures reduce cost. Even more, it makes application development more rapid and agile – the security infrastructure can be changed, updated, and enhanced without affecting applications.

Or, to bring up an example from another recent post:

But that is only one part of the problem. The lack of Security by Design and Privacy by Design is also becoming an inhibitor for the Digital Transformation. An essential element of the Digital Transformation is the change of business models, including rapid innovation and (ever-changing) partnerships.

A simple example that illustrates the limitations caused by the lack of security and privacy by design is the black box EDR (Event Data Recorder) becoming increasingly common an increasingly mandatory by legislation. Both automotive vendors and insurance companies are interested in “owning” the data held in such devices. While I come to the complexity of dealing with data access demands and requirements of various parties later in this post, it is obviously impossible to easily solve this conflict with technology that e.g. relies only on a single key for accessing that data. Modern concepts for security and privacy would minimize such conflicts by allowing various parties to have defined and controlled access to information they are entitled to access.

Cynically said: automotive vendors are rushing to roll out new features to succeed in the Digital Transformation, but by failing to do it right, with Security by Design and Privacy by Design, they are struggling with exactly the same transformation. Neither security nor privacy can be an afterthought for succeeding in the Digital Transformation.

Another example is the scenario described in the recently published Lloyd’s report “Business Blackout”. This report describes the cost of cyber-attacks against the US power grid. While this is more about the cost of security as an afterthought, there is also an indirect agility aspect: new regulations will require better security – and then security by design drives agility.

In general, the ability to provide services in these times of ever-changing (and ever-tightening) regulations as well as massive differences in regulations depends on the ability to re-configure your services, instead of re-coding them.

And maybe even Facebook would have been better advised in spending money for security and privacy by design instead of for lawyers and lobbyists in Europe. Then many more Europeans might use Facebook actively then do today, with more controls for privacy they could use to configure Facebook’s behavior.

The good thing, though, is this: once you have prepared your organization for security by design and privacy by design, it becomes more agile. It is ready for faster development of software or connected things and for more agile transformation of business models. It is a one-time investment, so to speak – with massive long-term, as well as near-term benefits.


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It really is worse than your nightmares – try Shodan

Jul 28, 2015 by Martin Kuppinger

Shodan is a computer search engine. They call themselves the “world’s first search engine for Internet-connected devices”, including buildings, refrigerators, power plants, the Internet of Things (IoT), webcams, and whatever else you can imagine. Shodan isn’t new. The search engine has been online for several years now. The only new thing is the change in the URL from www.shodanhq.com to www.shodan.io.

When talking about the challenges we are facing in the IoT and in Smart Manufacturing, I commonly bring up Shodan as an example of what is visible today in this hyper-connected world. Interestingly, most CIOs and other Information Security Professionals, not to mention the rest of the world, are unaware of the fact that such a website exists.

Just the fact that there is such a search engine around is scary. It allows searching for everything that is connected to the Internet. It even allows downloading results and creating reports or using that information in other ways. Running automated attacks based on search results is just one example, even while there clearly are “good” use cases as well.

What is even scarier, though, are the results a simple query such as

“default password” country:de

will show. Just run such query. It proves that reality is worse than your worst dreams. When I ran it today, it delivered 664 results containing default passwords of a variety of systems. Even while you could argue that some of these are not current anymore, quite a number of these passwords will do their job.

The important lesson to learn from the fact that there is Shodan (and that there are others around) is to do the best job you can do on security. Understand your potential attackers, know which devices expose themselves on the Internet (and stop the ones that don’t need to from doing so), avoid standard usernames and passwords, change passwords regularly, harden your systems, etc. At least follow the standard best practices for security. And clearly, “security by obscurity” is not the best, not a good, not even an acceptable practice – it never worked and clearly will not in the age of computer search engines.

Furthermore, when providing connected things or moving towards smart manufacturing, first understand that all these connected things will be visible to the Internet. Thus, they can be attacked. Security must not be an afterthought in IoT and Smart Manufacturing, because the attackers already are waiting for you to connect more things or even entire plants.


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Connected Vehicle: Security First

Jul 27, 2015 by Martin Kuppinger

The recently discovered remote hack vulnerability of Fiat Chrysler Jeep cars, based on their Uconnect functionality, puts a spotlight on the miserable state of connected vehicle security these days. Another recently published article in a German newspaper not only identified a gap in functionality but also illustrates on how in particular German automotive vendors and suppliers implement (or plan to implement) security in their connected vehicles.

While the U.S. has introduced the Spy Car Act (Security and Privacy in Your Car Act) which is about defining industrywide benchmarks and standards for security and privacy in connected vehicles and forces the industry to collaborate, similar legislation is still lacking in the EU.

The automotive industry currently is in a rush to roll out new smart and digital features (or whatever they perceive as being smart), emulating many other industries facing the need for joining the Digital Transformation. Unfortunately, security is an afterthought, as recent incidents as well as the current trends within the industry indicate.

Ironically, the lack of well thought-out security and privacy features is already becoming an inhibitor for the industry. While the cost of sending out USB sticks with a patch is still considerably low (and the approach is impressively insecure), the cost of calling back 1.4 million cars to the garages is significant, even without speaking of the indirect cost of reputation loss or, if something really goes wrong, the liability issues.

But that is only one part of the problem. The lack of Security by Design and Privacy by Design is also becoming an inhibitor for the Digital Transformation. An essential element of the Digital Transformation is the change of business models, including rapid innovation and (ever-changing) partnerships.

A simple example that illustrates the limitations caused by the lack of security and privacy by design is the black box EDR (Event Data Recorder) becoming increasingly common an increasingly mandatory by legislation. Both automotive vendors and insurance companies are interested in “owning” the data held in such devices. While I come to the complexity of dealing with data access demands and requirements of various parties later in this post, it is obviously impossible to easily solve this conflict with technology that e.g. relies only on a single key for accessing that data. Modern concepts for security and privacy would minimize such conflicts by allowing various parties to have defined and controlled access to information they are entitled to access.

Cynically said: automotive vendors are rushing to roll out new features to succeed in the Digital Transformation, but by failing to do it right, with Security by Design and Privacy by Design, they are struggling with exactly the same transformation. Neither security nor privacy can be an afterthought for succeeding in the Digital Transformation.

From my perspective, there are five essentials the automotive industry must follow to succeed with both the connected vehicle and, in its concept, the Digital Transformation:

  1. Security by Design and Privacy by Design must become essential principles that any developer follows. A well-designed system can be opened up, but a weakly designed system never can be shut down. Simply said: security and privacy by design are not inhibitors, but enablers, because these allow flexible configuration of the vehicles for ever-changing business models and regulations.
  2. Modern hardened implementations of technology are required. Relying on a single key for accessing information of a component in the vehicle or other security concepts dating back decades aren’t adequate anymore for today’s requirements.
  3. Identities and Access Control must become key elements in these new security concepts. Just look at the many things, organizations, and humans around the connected vehicle. There are entertainment systems, engine control, EDR systems, gear control, and many other components. There is the manufacturer, the leasing company, the police in various countries, the insurance company, the garage, the dealer, and many other organizations. There is the driver, the co-driver, the passengers, the owner, etc. Various parties might access some information in certain systems, but might not be entitled to do so in others. Some might only see parts of the EDR data at all times, while others might be entitled to see all of that information after specific incidents. Without a concept of identities, their relations, and for managing their access, e.g. for security and privacy by design, there are too many inhibitors for supporting change in business models and regulations. From my perspective, it is worth spending some time and thoughts in looking at the concept of Life Management Platforms in that context. These concepts and standards such as UMA (User Managed Access) are the foundation for better, future-proof security in connected vehicles.
  4. Standards are another obvious element. It is ridiculous assuming that such complex ecosystems with manufacturers, suppliers, governmental agencies, customers, consumers, etc. can be supported with proprietary concepts.
  5. Finally, it is about solving the patch and update issues. Providing updates by USB stick is as inept as calling back the cars to the garages every “patch Tuesday”. There is a need for a secure approach for regular as well as emergency patches and updates, which most become part of the concept. Again, there is a need for standards, given the fact that every car today consists of (connected) components from a number of suppliers.

Notably, all these points apply to virtually all other areas of IoT (Internet of Things) and Smart Manufacturing. Security must not be an afterthought anymore. The risk for all of us is far too high – and, as mentioned above, done right, security and privacy by design enable rapidly switching to new business models and complying with new regulations, while old school “security” approaches don’t.


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Amazon enters another market with their API Gateway

Jul 15, 2015 by Alexei Balaganski

What a surprising coincidence: on the same day we were preparing our Leadership Compass on API Security Management for publication, Amazon has announced their own managed service for creating, publishing and securing APIs – Amazon API Gateway. Well, it’s already too late to make changes in our Leadership Compass, but the new service is still worth having a look, hence this blog post.

Typically for Amazon, the solution is fully managed and based on AWS cloud infrastructure, meaning that there is no need to set up any physical or virtual machines or configure resources. The solution is tightly integrated with many other AWS services and is built directly into the central AWS console, so you can start creating or publishing APIs in minutes. If you already have existing backend services running on AWS infrastructure, such as EC2 or RDS, you can expose them to the world as APIs literally with a few mouse clicks. Even more compelling is the possibility to use AWS Lambda service to create completely managed “serverless” APIs without any need to worry about resource allocation or scaling.

In fact, this seems to be the primary focus of the solution. Although it is possible to manage external API endpoints, this is only mentioned in passing in the announcement: the main reason for releasing the service seems to be providing a native API management solution for AWS customers, which until now had to manage their APIs themselves or rely on third-party solutions.

Again typically for Amazon, the solution they delivered is a lean and no-frills service without all the fancy features of an enterprise API gateway, but, since it is based on the existing AWS infrastructure and heavily integrates with other well-known services from Amazon, with guaranteed scalability and performance, extremely low learning curve and, of course, low prices.

For API traffic management, Amazon CloudFront is used, with a special API caching mechanism added for increased performance. This ensures high scalability and availability for the APIs, as well as reasonable level of network security such as SSL encryption or DDoS protection. API transformation capabilities, however, are pretty basic, only XML to JSON conversion is supported.

To authorize access to APIs, the service integrates with AWS Identity and Access Management, as well as with Amazon Cognito, providing the same IAM capabilities that are available to other AWS services. Again, the gateway provides basic support for OAuth and OpenID Connect, but lacks the broad support for authentication methods typical for enterprise-grade solutions.

Analytics capabilities are provided by Amazon CloudWatch service, meaning that all API statistics are available in the same console as all other AWS services.

There seems to be no developer portal functionality provided with the service at the moment. Although it is possible to create API keys for third-party developers, there is no self-service for that. In this regard, the service does not seem to be very suitable for public APIs.

To summarize it, Amazon API Gateway is definitely not a competitor for existing enterprise API gateways like products from CA Technologies, Axway or Forum Systems. However, as a native replacement for third-party managed services (3scale, for example), it has a lot of potential and, with Amazon’s aggressive pricing policies, it may very well threaten their market positions.

Currently, Amazon API Gateway is available in selected AWS regions, so it’s possible to start testing it today. According to the first reports from developers, there are still some kinks to iron out before the service becomes truly usable, but I’m pretty sure that it will quickly become popular among existing AWS customers and may even be a deciding factor for companies to finally move their backend services to the cloud (Amazon cloud, of course).


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Safety vs. security – or both?

Jul 07, 2015 by Martin Kuppinger

When it comes to OT (Operational Technology) security in all its facets, security people from the OT world and IT security professionals quickly can end up in a situation of strong disagreement. Depending on the language they are talking, it might even appear that they seem being divided by a common language. While the discussion in English quickly will end up with a perceived dichotomy between security and safety, e.g. in German it would be “Sicherheit vs. Sicherheit”.

The reason for that is that OT thinking traditionally – and for good reason – is about safety of humans, machines, etc. Other major requirements include availability and reliability. If the assembly line stops, this can quickly become expensive. If reliability issues cause faulty products, it also can cost vast amounts of money.

On the other hand, the common IT security thinking is around security – protecting systems and information and enforcing the CIA – confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Notably, even the perception of the common requirement of availability is slightly different, with IT primarily being interested in not losing data while OT looking for always up. Yes, IT also frequently has requirements such as 99.9% availability. However, sometimes this is unfounded requirement. While it really costs money if your assembly line is out of service, the impact of HR not working for a business day is pretty low.

While IT is keen on patching systems to fix known security issues, OT in tendency is keen on enforcing reliability and, in consequence, availability and security. From that perspective, updates, patches, or even new hardware and software versions are a risk. That is the reason for OT frequently relying on rather old hardware and software. Furthermore, depending on the type of production, maintenance windows might be rare. In areas with continuous production, there is no way of quickly patching and “rebooting”.

Unfortunately, with smart manufacturing and the increased integration of OT environments with IT, the risk exposure is changing. Furthermore, OT environments for quite a long time have become attack targets. Information about such systems is widely available, for instance using the Shodan search engine. The problem: The longer software remains unpatched, the bigger the risk. Simply said: The former concept of focusing purely on safety (and reliability and availability) no longer works in connected OT. On the other hand, the IT thinking also does not work. Many of us have experienced problems and downtimes to due erroneous patches.

There is no simple answer, aside that OT and IT must work hand in hand. It’s, cynically said, not about “death by patch vs. death by attacker”, but about avoiding death at all. From my perspective, the CISO must be responsible for both OT and IT – split responsibilities, ignorance, and stubbornness do not help us in mitigating risks. Layered security, virtualizing existing OT and exposing it as standardized devices with standardized interfaces appears being a valid approach, potentially leading the way towards SDOT (Software-defined OT). Aside of that, providers of OT must rethink their approaches, enabling updates even with small maintenance windows or at runtime, while enforcing stable and reliable environments. Not easy to do, but a premise when moving towards smart manufacturing or Industry 4.0.

One thing to me is clear: Both parties can learn from each other – to the benefit of all.


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Security and Operational Technology / Smart Manufacturing

Jul 07, 2015 by Mike Small

Industry 4.0 is the German government’s strategy to promote the computerization of the manufacturing industry. This strategy foresees that industrial production in the future will be based on highly flexible mass production processes that allow rich customization of products. This future will also include the extensive integration of customers and business partners to provide business and value-added processes. It will link production with high-quality services to create so-called “hybrid products”.

At the same time, in the US, the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition is working on their vision for “Smart Manufacturing”. In 2013 the UK the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing, which is part of the University of Nottingham, received a grant of £4.6M for a study on Technologies for Future Smart Factories.

This vision depends upon the manufacturing machinery and tools containing embedded computer systems that will communicate with each other inside the enterprise, and with partners and suppliers across the internet. This computerization and communication will enable optimization within the organizations, as well as improving the complete value adding chain in near real time through the use of intelligent monitoring and autonomous decision making processes. This is expected to lead to the development of completely new business models as well as exploiting the considerable potential for optimization in the fields of production and logistics.

However there are risks, and organizations adopting this technology need to be aware of and manage these risks. Compromising the manufacturing processes could have far reaching consequences. These consequences include the creation of flawed or dangerous end products as well as disruption of the supply chain. Even when manufacturing processes based on computerized machinery are physically isolated they can still be compromised through maladministration, inappropriate changes and infected media. Connecting these machines to the internet will only increase the potential threats and the risks involved.

Here are some key points to securely exploiting this vision:

  • Take a Holistic Approach: the need for security is no longer confined to the IT systems, the business systems of record but needs to extend to cover everywhere that data is created, transmitted or exploited. Take a holistic approach and avoid creating another silo.
  • Take a Risk based approach: The security technology and controls that need to be built should be determined by balancing risk against rewards based on the business requirements, the assets at risk together with the needs for compliance as well as the organizational risk appetite. This approach should seek to remove identifiable vulnerabilities and put in place appropriate controls to manage the risks.
  • Trusted Devices: This is the most immediate concern since many devices that are being deployed today are likely to be in use, and hence at risk, for long periods into the future. These devices must be designed and manufactured to be trustworthy. They need an appropriate level of physical protection as well as logical protection against illicit access and administration. It is highly likely that these devices will become a target for cyber criminals who will seek to exploit any weaknesses through malware. Make sure that they contain protection that can be updated to accommodate evolving threats.
  • Trusted Data: The organization needs to be able to trust the data from this. It must be possible to confirm the device from which the data originated, and that this data has not been tampered with or intercepted. There is existing low power secure technology and standards that have been developed for mobile communications and banking, and these should be appropriately adopted or adapted to secure the devices.
  • Identity and Access Management – to be able to trust the devices and the data they provide means being able to trust their identities and control access. There are a number of technical challenges in this area; some solutions have been developed for some specific kinds of device however there is no general panacea. Hence it is likely that more device specific solutions will emerge and this will add to the general complexity of the management challenges.

More information on this subject can be found in Advisory Note: Security and the Internet of Everything and Everyone - 71152 - KuppingerCole


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OT, ICS, SCADA – What’s the difference?

Jul 07, 2015 by Graham Williamson

Operational Technology (OT) refers to computing systems that are used to manage industrial operations as opposed to administrative operations. Operational systems include production line management, mining operations control, oil & gas monitoring etc.

ot_ics_scada.jpg

Industrial control systems (ICS) is a major segment within the operational technology sector. It comprises systems that are used to monitor and control industrial processes. This could be mine site conveyor belts, oil refinery cracking towers, power consumption on electricity grids or alarms from building information systems. ICSs are typically mission-critical applications with a high-availability requirement.

Most ICSs fall into either a continuous process control system, typically managed via programmable logic controllers (PLCs), or discrete process control systems (DPC), that might use a PLC or some other batch process control device.

Industrial control systems (ICS) are often managed via a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems that provides a graphical user interface for operators to easily observe the status of a system, receive any alarms indicating out-of-band operation, or to enter system adjustments to manage the process under control.

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems display the process under control and provide access to control functions. A typical configuration is shown in Figure 1 - Typical SCADA Configuration Figure 1.

scada_configuration.pg.jpg
Figure 1 - Typical SCADA Configuration

The main components are:

  • SCADA display unit that shows the process under management in a graphic display with status messages and alarms shown at the appropriate place on the screen. Operators can typically use the SCADA system to enter controls to modify the operation in real-time. For instance, there might be a control to turn a valve off, or turn a thermostat down.
  • Control Unit that attaches the remote terminal units to the SCADA system. The Control unit must pass data to and from the SCADA system in real-time with low latency.
  • Remote terminal units (RTUs) are positioned close to the process being managed or monitored and are used to connect one or more devices (monitors or actuators) to the control unit, a PLC can fulfil this requirement. RTUs may be in the next room or hundreds of kilometres away.
  • Communication links can be Ethernet for a production system, a WAN link over the Internet or private radio for a distributed operation or a telemetry link for equipment in a remote area without communications facilities.

There are some seminal changes happening in the OT world at the moment. Organisations want to leverage their OT assets for business purposes, they want to be agile and have the ability to make modifications to their OT configurations. They want to take advantage of new, cheaper, IP sensors and actuators. They want to leverage their corporate identity provider service to authenticate operational personnel. It’s an exciting time for operational technology systems.


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