As cyber attackers increasingly target critical infrastructure, the repercussions for national security, the economy, public safety, and healthcare are significant. To safeguard critical systems, it is crucial that operators understand how attackers gain access, recognize the signs of an attack, and take proactive steps to reduce the risk. In this article, we delve into potential attack scenarios that OT engineers may encounter, and explore the importance of comprehensive training solutions, such as those offered by CybergymIEC.
The Growing Threat to Critical Infrastructure
Critical infrastructure and systems worldwide face escalating threats from malicious actors seeking to compromise the technologies driving industrial processes. The potential regional, national, and global impact of such attacks makes critical infrastructure an attractive target. Among the components vulnerable to cyberattack in industrial control systems (ICS), are Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), which are commonly used to automate processes in sectors such as energy, water, and transportation. These connected devices lack basic built-in protections or security controls, making them susceptible to cyber threats.
Exploring an Attack on a PLC in an Electricity Generation Plant
To illustrate the severity of a cyberattack on PLC components, let's explore an attack scenario at an electricity generation plant. Before the attack, the operators monitoring the Human Machine Interface (HMI) observe the HMI operating normally, indicating that the boiler - a critical component in the plant responsible for converting water into steam - is functioning properly. However, the situation quickly changes when an attacker sends a malicious code.
The HMI's notification screen becomes inundated with messages from the attacker, revealing that the PLC is under a ransomware attack. If the ransom is not paid within a specified time, the plant's boiler will be shut down. Compounding the issue, the engineer's password has been changed, preventing access to the PLC. As the ransom goes unpaid, the boiler halts, leading to a power outage and subsequent darkness in the room.
The Importance of Realistic Training Environments
The value of cyber training is that it equips professionals with the skills they need to respond effectively to cyberattacks, without having to experience an actual incident. CybergymIEC provides training solutions that mirror real-world cyberattacks, based on an extensive range of cyberattack scenario exercises that test the capabilities of individuals and teams, in an environment that closely replicates their everyday software, hardware, and security tools.
During the training, red team hackers from CybergymIEC evaluate the professionals' response in real time, while the white team explains the details of the attacks, the vulnerabilities exploited by the attacker, and the measures required to enhance protection against such attacks in the future, should they occur.
Mitigating cyberattacks on PLC components, whether in an electricity generation plant or at any other critical infrastructure site, requires a proactive approach. Understanding potential attack scenarios, recognizing the vulnerabilities of PLCs, and investing in comprehensive training solutions are crucial steps toward safeguarding critical systems.
CybergymIEC's hands-on training programs provide professionals with practical experience, preparing them to respond effectively to cyber threats and better protect the critical infrastructure for which they are responsible. By strengthening the skills and knowledge of OT engineers and fostering collaboration between IT and OT teams, CybergymIEC helps organizations to enhance their resilience against cyberattacks, and secure the integrity of their operations.