The legacy endpoint devices that control our critical infrastructure (utility systems, water treatment plants, military networks, industrial control systems, etc.) are some of the most vulnerable devices on the Internet. These devices present a vast attack vector that’s not adequately protected. Many of these are:
fixed-function devices that can’t be upgraded to add security;
devices that use obsolete operating system (OS) versions that are insecure and can’t be upgraded;
real-time OS-based devices that were designed before security was a critical concern and therefore lack sufficient security;
designed for use on private networks but are now connected to the Internet.
Once deployed, these devices remain in use for five, 10, or even 20 years. The cost to replace them all to add security improvements would be staggering. For devices that can’t be easily or affordably replaced or upgraded, a “bump-in-the-wire” appliance solution provides the required security.
Some OEMs offer products to protect these legacy devices by creating a “secure enclave” in which these devices can operate. Only trusted devices should be deployed within the secure enclave. These devices can freely communicate with each other; however, communication outside of the enclave is controlled for security. The bump-in-the-wire appliance provides security by enforcing communication policies, ensuring that only valid communication is allowed with the endpoints within the secure enclave.
By limiting communication to the secure enclave, the bump-in-the-wire appliance will:
Prevent probes and hacking drones from discovering endpoints. Hackers and automated drones send out ping requests or other messages to a range of IP addresses looking for responses. The appliance drops these requests making the endpoints undiscoverable.
Prevent access from unauthorized machines. Many fixed function devices only need communicate with a few known, trusted hosts. Enforcing these communication restrictions prevents communication with unauthorized machines. If a hacker can’t communicate with the endpoint, they can’t compromise it.
Close security loopholes. Many cyberattacks utilize services on an endpoint that aren’t required for fixed function devices. Blocking unused ports and protocols closes these commonly exploited security loopholes.
Protect against denial of service attacks. By controlling whom the endpoint talks to, DoS attacks are blocked before they reach the endpoint. The endpoints are shielded from malicious traffic and traffic floods, ensuring continued operation even when the network is under attack.
Protects against insider attacks and malware on the corporate network. Endpoints within the secure enclave are sheltered from malicious packets that may be present on the corporate network. With communication restricted to a small set of trusted hosts, malware, insider attacks, or any other malicious activity is blocked. An insider attempting to hack an endpoint from outside the corporate network or from any non-trusted machine will also be blocked, preventing the attack.
Quarantine infected or compromised machines. If the appliance provides bidirectional filtering, it will enable any endpoint infected with malware or compromised by hackers to be quarantined, limiting damage from the attack.
Enhance security for endpoint devices. Fixed function devices, SCADA machines, and other critical endpoints can be grouped into a secure enclave. The communication policies for these machines can be more restrictive than the general policies for the rest of the network. This allows a higher level of security to be enforced for the critical devices on your network. Even if the front end of the corporate network is breached, the individual endpoints are still safe.
The main difference is that our solution will support all TCP/IP traffic, not just HTTP traffic. Our solution also supports flexible filtering rules that can be customized for SCADA and similar devices.
What should be the perception of a product’s real-world performance with regard to the published spec sheet? While it is easy to assume that the product will operate according to spec, what variables should be considered, and is that a designer obligation or a customer responsibility? Or both?
Procurement actually means well. There is no question that procurement can do a better job of phrasing their questions or making connections between engineering’s goals and the processes underway. And if you are using the right deciphering code, the result can live up to -- or surpass -- your expectations.
If you are interested in adding FPGA technology to you engineering toolkit, grab some free tools and an evaluation kit and get started on your own FPGA project. It never hurts to expand your engineering toolbox, and FPGAs are only going to become more popular over the next few years.
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