2024’s Guide to Cyber Security Standards for Industrial Automation

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Brief: In this article, we review cyber security standards for industrial automation, look at how to implement them, and dive into selecting the right framework for your environment. 

“Life finds a way,”
— Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park

Recently, The MITRE Corporation experienced a cyber attack targeting its NERVE network via two Ivanti Connect Secure zero-day vulnerabilities. 

Hackers, identified as a China-linked group, used various techniques, including a Perl-based webshell named ROOTROT, to gain initial access and establish control over MITRE’s VMware infrastructure. 

Cyber security experts understand the nature of unexpected vulnerabilities within seemingly secure systems, and Dr. Malcolm’s quote highlights the fact that even the best security standards can fail when unpredictability is underestimated.

The Mitre incident further shows the importance of vigilance in network security within industrial automation, as attackers used sophisticated methods to maintain persistence and execute commands, underlining the need for up-to-date cyber security standards and practices in protecting such environments.

While hindsight is 20/20; when it comes to anticipating industrial automation security challenges in 2024, foresight is gold.  

To help you be prepared, we’ve curated a comprehensive list of cyber security standards for industrial automation that’s fit for the future. 

Your tour to tackle 2024’s cyber security standards for industrial automation starts here. 

Cyber Standards for Industrial Automation

Understanding IEC 62443 Standards

Imagine you’re trying to ensure your home’s security is top-notch. The IEC 62443 series is like a comprehensive guidebook for securing a house, but instead, it’s for industrial automation. Specifically, IEC 62443-3-3 covers the security requirements for the entire system, kind of like ensuring the whole house is secure. 

On the other hand, IEC 62443-4-2 focuses on the individual components, like making sure each door lock is robust. These standards help ensure that both the broad and specific elements of your industrial setup are well-protected against cyber threats.

The IEC 62443-3-3 standard presents high-level system requirements for security, providing a framework for system integrators and operators to design and maintain secure industrial automation systems. The defined security levels (SLs) act as objectives for system architectures, offering design flexibility by outlining multiple ways to achieve a given SL.

Think of IEC 62443-3-3 as a blueprint for building secure industrial systems. It outlines high-level security requirements, providing a structure that system integrators and operators can follow. This standard doesn’t lock you into one way of doing things; instead, it introduces security levels (SLs). These SLs are like goals, giving you flexibility in how you design your system’s architecture to meet these objectives. You can choose from different methods to achieve the required security level, tailoring the approach to fit the specific needs of your system.

The IEC 62443-4-2 standard, on the other hand, digs into the component level. It delivers detailed technical security requirements for components that make up an industrial automation and control system. Organizations can use these requirements to set development targets, especially for components intended for use in a secure manufacturing environment.

So, for the IEC 62443-4-2 standard, think of it as focusing on the nuts and bolts of our system—literally. It dives into the specific technical requirements needed for each component that makes up industrial automation and control systems. This standard helps organizations develop components that are not only effective but secure. 

By setting clear development targets based on this standard, companies can ensure that each piece of their manufacturing environment meets stringent security benchmarks, essential for maintaining integrity in high-security environments.

Exploring ISA99 Industrial Automation Standards

ISA99 is another comprehensive set of standards focusing on industrial automation and control systems, leaning heavily towards the process automation industry. Divided into several key parts, it covers a wide range of topics, including defining electronic security risks and developing electronic security procedural requirements for manufacturing and control system networks.

The first part of the ISA99 standard series, ISA99.01.01, provides a common language and sets the groundwork for the other parts of the standard. It establishes the concepts and models fundamental to cyber security risk assessment in manufacturing and control systems.

A key selling point of the ISA99 standards is their interoperability with IEC 62443. Both sets of standards are built with a mutual base, making them compatible and offering businesses multiple avenues to achieve a secure operating environment.

Here’s a high-level overview of its main sections and their functions:

General: Outlines the concepts, models, and terminology used across the entire series.

Policies and Procedures: Focuses on how organizations should manage cyber security, including risk assessment and management processes.

System: Details requirements for designing and implementing secure industrial automation systems.

Component: Specifies security requirements for individual components, ensuring they meet necessary security standards.

Implementation Guidance: Provides advice on applying the standards effectively in real-world environments.

NIST SP 800-82 

NIST SP 800-82 is a framework dedicated to securing industrial control systems. Developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, it specifically addresses the unique risks associated with these systems. 

The framework offers detailed guidance on how to identify vulnerabilities, assess potential cyber security risks, and implement effective management strategies to protect critical infrastructure. 

This framework is crucial for ensuring operational continuity and safeguarding against sophisticated cyber threats. By following its detailed procedures, industries can enhance the safety, reliability, and robustness of their critical infrastructure, making it an invaluable resource in the cyber security landscape.

For example, NIST SP 800-82 has been applied in various sectors that rely on industrial control systems, such as:

Energy Sector: Protecting electrical grids and power generation facilities from cyber attacks that could cause widespread outages.

Water Treatment Facilities: Ensuring the security of systems that control water purification and distribution, preventing tampering that could affect public health.

Manufacturing: Securing automated production lines to prevent disruptions that could lead to economic losses or safety hazards.

These examples demonstrate how the framework is used to address specific vulnerabilities and enhance the resilience of critical infrastructure against cyber threats.

The ability to understand and apply these cyber security standards is becoming increasingly critical as the industrial automation landscape expands and evolves. Amping up the security measures in line with these standards is not a luxury but a necessity in today’s scenario. To make this process more efficient, let’s move on to understanding how exactly these standards can be put into practice. 

How to Implement Cyber Security in Industrial Automation

Operational Technology (OT) frameworks and Industrial Automation and Control Systems (IACS) are two key areas where cyber security standards need top-tier implementation. This expands your understanding of cyber security standards and their practical application in industrial automation.

  • OT cyber security frameworks call for comprehensive measures and robust policies.
  • When applied correctly, cyber security for IACS can create a resilient shield against various cyber threats.

Implementing OT Cyber Security Frameworks

Operational Technology frameworks require carefully crafted cyber security measures. Unforgiving in nature, OT environments demand seamless implementation of OT security that leaves no room for vulnerabilities or faults. 

Approach to Implementing OT Cyber Security Frameworks

Assess Current Security Posture: Conduct a comprehensive assessment to identify vulnerabilities in your OT environment.

Define Security Objectives: Based on the assessment, establish clear cyber security goals aligned with your business needs.

Select a Framework: Choose an OT cyber security framework (like NIST SP 800-82 or IEC 62443) that best fits your organization’s requirements.

Deciding on the right OT cyber security framework for your business involves a few strategic steps:

  1. Understand Your Specific Needs: Identify the unique requirements of your OT environment, including the types of devices and systems in use and the level of cyber risk they face.
  2. Consider Industry Specifics: Different frameworks may cater better to specific industries. Ensure the framework aligns with the regulatory and operational needs of your sector.
  3. Evaluate Framework Features: Compare the coverage, comprehensiveness, and specific guidelines offered by each framework. Look for one that addresses both your current and anticipated security needs.
  4. Assess Compatibility: Check how compatible the framework is with your existing security tools and systems. It should integrate well without requiring extensive overhauls.
  5. Seek Expert Opinion: Consult with cyber security experts or IT consultants who have experience implementing these frameworks in similar business environments.
  6. Review Case Studies: Look for case studies or testimonials from other organizations that have implemented the frameworks to understand their practical implications and benefits. We have a number of examples here at F12 we’re happy to share. 

Develop Policies and Procedures: Craft specific security policies and procedures to guide the implementation and ongoing management of the framework.

Implement Security Controls: Deploy appropriate technical and administrative controls to meet the framework’s requirements.

Train Employees: Provide training for all employees on cyber security best practices and their specific responsibilities.

Monitor and Audit: Continuously monitor security systems and conduct regular audits to ensure effectiveness and compliance with the framework.

Review and Update: Regularly review and update the cyber security measures to adapt to new threats and changes in the organization.

Following these steps will help ensure a robust implementation of cyber security frameworks, protecting your OT environments from emerging threats.

Fostering Robust Policies

Leveraging the right framework is a good start, and a strong policy establishes a clear line of defence against potential cyber threats. It’s important to note that a well-defined policy is only as effective as its execution; it requires rigorous adherence and proactive review to ensure its relevance and effectiveness in a dynamic environment. 

A robust cyber security policy, once enforced, can increase the security posture of your OT framework and contribute to safeguarding your production capabilities and industrial assets, all while aligning your business resilience with cyber security resilience.

Applying Cyber Security for Industrial Automation and Control Systems (IACS)

Industrial Automation and Control Systems (IACS) are a critical component of operational establishments. The application of cyber security standards in IACS can have multiple benefits, from mitigating potential cyber threats to fostering a resilient industrial ecosystem.

Building a Resilient Shield

The relentless advancement of technology and the increasing sophistication of cyber threats necessitate a resilient security architecture in IACS. It’s not a one-and-done task; It’s a continuous process of improvement, with an emphasis on anticipating potential vulnerabilities and pre-emptively addressing them.

With the right application of cyber security standards, your IACS can become a resilient shield against cyberattacks, ensuring the continuity of your industrial operations and also instilling a culture of security awareness throughout your business.

How Can an MSSP Like F12 Help You Adhere to Cyber Security Standards for Industrial Automation

An MSSP like F12 can play a crucial role in helping your organization adhere to cyber security standards for industrial automation by providing specialized services that include:

  • Risk Assessment and Audits: F12 can conduct thorough risk assessments and audits of your OT systems to identify vulnerabilities and non-compliance with standards like IEC 62443 or NIST SP 800-82.
  • Custom Security Solutions: We can design and implement security solutions tailored to your specific industrial environment and regulatory requirements.
  • Continuous Monitoring and Incident Response: F12 can offer 24/7 monitoring of your systems to detect and respond to security incidents quickly.
  • Compliance Management: We can help manage and document compliance efforts, making it easier to adhere to industry standards and pass regulatory audits.
  • Employee Training: Providing training and awareness programs to ensure your staff understands the cyber security risks and best practices in industrial automation.

F12 can effectively bridge the gap between your operational requirements and stringent cyber security standards, helping you ensure your systems are secure and compliant.

The Role of Cyber Security in Industrial Automation

Industrial Automation is evolving at a breakneck pace. Innovation is accompanied by new vulnerabilities and cyber threats. Hence, the significance of cyber security has grown exponentially. The sole purpose of cyber security in Industrial Automation is to protect integral systems and data from breaches or attacks. Its functions stretch from safeguarding operational technology (OT) environments to maintaining a stable, secure production line. 

Increased integration of Traditional IT with Operational Technology has paved the way for an interconnected infrastructure. Unfortunately, this also increases the attack surface for hackers. Cyber security measures come into play here, creating barriers that prevent malicious actors from compromising these interconnected systems.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are projected to revolutionize the realm of Industrial Automation Cyber Security. AI, along with its subsets, could potentially increase the speed and efficiency of identifying, analyzing, and neutralizing cyber threats in Industrial Automation.

Simultaneously, the dawn of IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) devices has drastically increased the number of access points within factories. This amplifies the chance of cyber-attacks. Anticipating this, Cyber security trends are focusing on Network Segmentation. Here, the network is divided into multiple zones, making it harder for a cyber threat to spread across the entire system.

In this environment, keeping an eye on these trends and adapting to them could stringently boost your cyber security of IoT within Industrial Automation.

Frequently Asked Questions about Security Standards in Industrial Automation

What is the Importance of Cyber Security Standards in Industrial Automation?

The advent of Industry 4.0 ushered in cutting-edge technology, connecting devices and improving automation on an unprecedented level. With this digital revolution, however, comes a wave of cyber threats and vulnerabilities. Cyber security standards become the bulwark that defends industrial automation ecosystems from such risks.

Cyber security standards in industrial automation establish the benchmark for companies to ensure their systems, data and operations are protected. By adhering to these standards, businesses can fortify their safety measures and create reliable, secure networks that can withstand potential cyber attacks.

How Often are Cyber Security Standards Updated?

Keeping pace with rapid technological advances and the sophistication of cyber threats, cyber security standards are dynamic documents that are continually reviewed and updated. However, the frequency can be largely dependent on the issuing authority and the specific industrial sector it serves.

Typically, major standards like the ISO/IEC 27001 or the NIST Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cyber security undergo revisions every five to seven years. These revisions ensure businesses are always equipped to counter newer forms of cyber threats.

However, it’s important to consistently monitor updates and amendments even within this period to stay aware of any incremental changes that may be made.

How Can I Stay Updated on Changes to Cyber Security Standards?

Staying updated on changes to cyber security standards can be challenging due to their technical nature and the frequency of amendments.  Yet, with the threat landscape constantly evolving, it’s indispensable to keep pace with the modifications.

One way to stay informed is by subscribing to updates and communications from regulatory authorities and standards organizations, such as ISO or NIST. Specialized cyber security news sites, forums, and LinkedIn groups can also provide timely updates.

Another effective method is through employee training. Training not only enhances the competence of the staff but also ensures that the latest security standards are ingrained in the company’s culture.

Companies can also opt for partnerships with consulting firms specializing in industrial cyber security or seek services of professionals in this domain for regular audits and advisory.

Next Steps for Developing Security Standards for Industrial Automation

Cyber security standards are pivotal for securing industrial automation against ever-evolving threats. Expertise in Risk Management Framework, ISO/IEC 27001 and NIST guidelines enhances defence capabilities. 

Hopefully this guide has empowered you with knowledge of 2024’s key cyber security standards for industrial automation. It’s indispensable for future-proofing your security infrastructure against sophisticated cyber-attacks.

It’s time to implement these standards into your security strategy. 

Begin with a thorough risk assessment followed by an aggressive defence strategy using the ISO/IEC 27001. Don’t forget to regularly check your compliance with NIST guidelines.

Curious how your organization’s current cyber security measures stack against these standards? 

Remember, the true test of a sturdy paddle isn’t in calm waters but amidst the turbulent waves. Shield your organization today. 

Stay one step ahead, because the sun only sets on the unprepared.