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Is Your Network Safe?

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Rob Spiegel
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Re: The only "safe" network is one you can't use
Rob Spiegel   11/30/2012 3:53:16 PM
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Jake, that's what I've always thought. The disgruntled employee is the most dangerous hacker. That employee is the one who knows where are the buttons and levers are.

ab3a
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Re: The only "safe" network is one you can't use
ab3a   11/30/2012 2:09:00 PM
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We would like to think that we're defending against evil script kiddies living in their Mom's Basment, or some foreign hacker working for a government agency. So many decide to defend against the faceless Man-In-The-Middle attacks because they're an easy sell to management. But that's not what experince has shown. 

In reality most of them are your co-workers.  Yes, the ones you drink coffee with every morning.  Aside of the flimsy and unstable designs or configurations, it usually takes extensive inside knowledge to do real, lasting damage to most control sytems.

That's why the most notorious cases are usually the work of insiders. 

 

Jake Brodsky

 

Rob Spiegel
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Re: The only "safe" network is one you can't use
Rob Spiegel   11/30/2012 1:48:33 PM
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Ab3a, thanks for all the detail. That helps a lot. But I have an oddball question. When it comes to security, who are the likely enemies?

ab3a
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The only "safe" network is one you can't use
ab3a   11/30/2012 12:25:46 PM
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As one of the co-founders of the SCADASEC e-mail list, Chairman of the DNP User Group, and a voting member of the committee that reviews and writes the DNP3 SCADA protocol (also known as IEEE-1815), this subject is very near and dear to my heart and to my career. 

Eric Byres is a well known and highly regarded expert in this field. But there are differences of opinion and there are practicalities that have to be answered.

For example, you could build a perfectly secure system and it would be very labor intensive, and so unusable that the whole process you're working on becomes uneconommical. It's just like trying to build a bulletproof fighter jet. You can certainly protect certain key parts, but you can't protect the whole thing. It would be so heavy that it would never get off the ground. 

Likewise with SCADA and control systems, we need lightweight but effective security that doesn't get too far in the way of those who use it and doesn't become so difficult to use that it is cheaper to run operations manually.

The big secret to maintaining a posture of this sort is to keep the data hounds at bay. All this idiotic talk of "Big Data" presumes that someone will "surf" over this data and discover lovely gold nuggets of precious observations that will save the company money.  The latter is predicated on gathering the data cheaply. Well, if you want to keep it secure, it won't be cheap any more. 

The other problem is that there are too many people with glossy CIO literature who salivate puddles of drool over knowing real time data in the boardroom. No CEO in his or her right mind would want to know data in this detail. It does no good except if you dream of micro-managing your company toward insanity. 

There are judgement calls to be made.  There are political situations that need to be addressed. And frankly, it is time for some pushback against the "real time" data hounds who have no understanding of the business processes, the industrial processes, or where the leadership of the company wants to go. 

We need to get more secure. Of that there is no dispute. The differences of opinion are on the hows and whys. 

Rob Spiegel
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Re: It's always daylight in someone's time zone
Rob Spiegel   11/21/2012 2:48:25 PM
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Yes, Ann, it was quite a transition from those early dial-up services to the Internet we now know. One significant change is that you no longer need a librarian intermediary between you and the information you're seeking. I remember attending an online conference in the mid-80s. A presenter from one of the major online services (I think McGraw-Hill)  demonstrated a page of information. I took about two minutes for the page to load. He admitted that the Internet was not quite ready for consumers. 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: It's always daylight in someone's time zone
Ann R. Thryft   11/20/2012 4:21:44 PM
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Rob, I'd forgotten about those online search specialists. That does take me back! I also remember the debut of AOL, and using the first browser, Mosaic, which later morphed into Netscape.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: It's always daylight in someone's time zone
Rob Spiegel   11/19/2012 7:14:11 PM
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Yes, Ann, I remember the Internet before the WWW. In the early 80s, I worked for a company that prepared articles for sites such as Dialog and sites like Lexus and Nexus. That was back in the day when intermediaries such as special librarians often ran the online searches.

It was a small world with publications such as Online Review and Information Today. I'll never forget when I saw a TV commercial for America Online. I couldn't belive this small online world had spilled over into the consumer world.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: It's always daylight in someone's time zone
Ann R. Thryft   11/19/2012 12:30:05 PM
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Rob, that was before the Web, but not before the Internet (I started posting my stories to the Computer Design bulletin board using a 300-baud modem in 1989. For those of you who don't know what that means, it was a very, very slow modem connection to the pre-Web predecessor of a website). In any case, these were not closed loops where I worked, or at the company's customers.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: It's always daylight in someone's time zone
Rob Spiegel   11/17/2012 1:13:55 PM
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Ann, wasn't that a closed loop back then? Since that was before the Internet, I would think they didn't have the same conflict over patches that they do now.

William K.
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Re: Is the network safe???
William K.   11/16/2012 7:29:50 PM
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The same volunderability is often found in office building networks where there are wire-closets sometimes left open in hallways. easy instant hacking, with no pesky passwords if the right wireless hub is used.

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