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HAVEX Proves (Again) that the Airgap is a Myth: Time for Real Cybersecurity in ICS Environments

July 3, 2014 at 7:00 am PST

The HAVEX worm is making the rounds again. As Cisco first reported back in September 2013, HAVEX specifically targets supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), industrial control system (ICS), and other operational technology (OT) environments. In the case of HAVEX, the energy industry, and specifically power plants based in Europe, seems to be the primary target. See Cisco’s security blog post for technical details on this latest variant.

When I discuss security with those managing SCADA, ICS and other OT environments, I almost always get the feedback that cybersecurity isn’t required, because their systems are physically separated from the open Internet. This practice, referred to in ICS circles as the “airgap”, is the way ICS networks have been protected since the beginning of time; and truth be told, it’s been tremendously effective for decades. The problem is, the reality of the airgap began to disappear several years ago, and today is really just a myth.

Today, networks of all types are more connected than ever before. Gone are the days where only information technology (IT) networks are connected, completely separated from OT networks.  OT networks are no longer islands unto themselves, cut off from the outside world. Technology trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT) have changed all of that. To gain business efficiencies and streamline operations, today’s manufacturing plants, field area networks, and other OT environments are connected to the outside world via wired and wireless communications – in multiple places throughout the system! As a result, these industrial environments are every bit as open to hackers and other cyber threats as their IT counterparts. The main difference, of course, is that most organizations have relatively weak cybersecurity controls in these environments because of the continued belief that an airgap segregates them from the outside world, thereby insulating them from cyber attacks. This naivety makes OT environments an easier target.

The authors of HAVEX certainly understand that OT environments are connected, since the method of transmission is via a downloadable Trojan installed on the websites of several ICS/SCADA manufacturers. What’s considered a very old trick in the IT world is still relatively new to those in OT.

It’s absolutely essential that organizations with ICS environments fully understand and embrace the fact that IT and OT are simply different environments within a single extended network. As such, cybersecurity needs to be implemented across both to produce a comprehensive security solution for the entire extended network. The most important way to securely embrace IoT is for IT and OT to work together as a team. By each relinquishing just a bit of control, IT can retain centralized control over the extended network – but with differentiated policies that recognize the specialized needs of OT environments.

We’ll never completely bulletproof our systems, but with comprehensive security solutions applied across the extended network that provide protection before, during, and after an attack, organizations can protect themselves from most of what’s out there. A significant step in the right direction is to understand that the airgap is gone forever; it’s time to protect our OT environments every bit as much as we protect our IT environments.

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Telstra Building the Foundation for Premium Cloud Services

Internet traffic in Australia is set to grow 3-fold from 2013 to 2017 according to the latest data from Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI). However, if we “look behind the curtain” there is more to this story beyond just greater bandwidth demand as both consumers and enterprises are increasingly adopting cloud-based services. This move to the cloud provides a new opportunity for traditional service providers since they can uniquely combine network infrastructure and data center capacity to deliver premium cloud services with an SLA guarantee. Australia’s leading telecommunications and information services company, Telstra, has established itself as a trusted provider of cloud services, such as collaboration and management applications, to customers. They’re achieving this with a new architectural approach that enables a next generation Internet experience combining networks, data centers and applications together while ensuring resiliency, low-latency performance, and programmability.

Telstra recently announced Read More »

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#ISTE2014 – Beyond Connectedness to the Internet of Everything

July 1, 2014 at 11:29 am PST

ISTE2014 logoISTE 2014 marks the launch of summertime for many educators as they come together to connect and share ideas about technology and innovation.  Unsurprisingly, the theme of “connectedness” continues with this year’s show in Atlanta.  The ability for schools to connect to the Internet and help make access to technology ubiquitous is changing learning in ways we probably never imagined: students can now take virtual field trips; they can access almost any information any time with the touch of a button, and traditional textbooks are going digital.  Rapid advances in technology are accelerating change.

In 2015, 25 billion devices will be connected to the Internet.  More things are connected to the Internet than there are people in the world.   By 2020, that number will double to 50 billion devices, and each person will have an average 6.58 devices.  We know that Internet of Things (IoT) connections will grow from two billion to six billion in the next five years, producing an enormous amount of information. Read More »

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Critical Infrastructure: How Smart Cities Will Transform Latin America

Although Latin America is a developing region, the area is making strides towards becoming more efficient, cleaner and more innovative—characteristics of smart cities and the Internet of Everything (IoE) are making it possible. Many people now beg the question, “Are smart cities real?” Wim Elfrink answers the question with a firm yes, referring to smart cities as tangible and necessary to foster economic and developmental growth.

With more and more people flocking to urban areas, cities that don’t embrace the digital economy will lag behind. Leading cities are reinventing themselves with real-time, networked applications to improve everything from traffic flow and parking to water usage and city-wide energy consumption. In some, passersby can instantly find nearby restaurants, shopping deals, mass transit and more at their fingertips through connected mobile devices.

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Internet of Everything Enabling Connected Cities
Recently, Cisco partnered with AGT to develop an upcoming Internet of Things-enabled traffic management system that Read More »

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Cisco Announces Acquisition of Assemblage

Collaboration technology gives us the ability to work together anywhere, on any device, at any time. With more and more people using smartphones and tablets to do their work, it is more important than ever that enterprise collaboration delivers high quality voice, video, chat and online sharing instantly, to any device on any platform.

Today, I am pleased to announce Cisco’s acquisition of Assemblage to help us capture the ongoing market transitions of mobility, cloud and the Internet of Everything (IoE). Assemblage has built a talented team of web developers to deliver the tools and the infrastructure to enable simple, real-time collaboration through the browser to any device, without the need for downloads, plugins, or installations.

Assemblage offers real-time collaboration apps for shared whiteboarding, presentation broadcasting and screensharing. Users are able to collaborate simply via their browser with one-click, instantly accessing collaboration apps delivered via the cloud. Assemblage’s technology also integrates with popular third party cloud services and supports 40 different file types to enable quick and efficient collaboration.

With this acquisition, Assemblage brings a strong team of engineers with deep web development expertise to Cisco’s Collaboration Technology Group (CTG), enabling Cisco to accelerate innovation and develop simple, easy to use, next generation collaboration solutions. In addition, Assemblage’s experience integrating with third party cloud ecosystem applications like Box and Google shows a close alignment to Cisco’s collaboration strategy and our commitment to simplicity and interoperability.

We are excited to welcome Assemblage to our collaboration team. Together, Cisco and Assemblage will provide simple, easy-to-use solutions that help employees work smarter together from virtually anywhere.

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