Cybersecurity for Industrial Control Systems

Cybersecurity for Industrial Control Systems by Tyson McCauley and Bryan Singer

Get the Kindle Edition

Auerbach Publications, 203 Pages

I had high hopes for this book since Bryan Singer is very experienced in ICS, ICS security and IT security — and Bryan and co-author Tyson McCauley did not disappoint. To date this is clearly the best book on ICS Security by far. (Note – Langner’s book Robust Control Systems is a 5-star, must read, but it intentionally talks engineering not security)

The two best things about this book are:

  1. They got the facts right about both ICS and IT security. This is not as easy as it sounds as most books have failed or been simplistic in one area or another.
  2. They provided the background information for a beginner to understand, but followed that up with significant technical detail and examples. It’s a good book for a beginner or intermediate in either area, and even those with years of experience in both areas will learn something. For me the best new info was the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and Security OEE as a future risk assessment technique in Chapter 4.

Chapter 1 provides a good background on ICS for the IT security audience. Again, sounds straightforward, but a lot of the ICS security books today read like the authors have not spent much hands on time with a SCADA or DCS. Excellent material for the IT security professional or anyone else new to ICS. They started to lose me on the Taxonomy of Convergence in that chapter, but I’m interested to hear what others thought of that sub-section.

Chapter 2 covers threats to ICS, and there is great information here such as:

  • “given today’s network threat environment, ICS security impacts are first and foremost likely to occur as a result of unintended effects of outsider attacks”
  • “ICS is most likely to suffer as a matter of the lucky hit or collateral damage, as opposed to direct attack”
  • “indirect threat of impacts associated with the probing, scanning and attacking inadvertently impacts the fragile ICS devices”
  • “Differentiating between phishers, spammers, foreign intelligence, and organized crime is not very productive if they are all using the same attack vectors”

I could go on and on as I highlighted sentences throughout the chapter and was muttering yes as I read.

Chapter 3: ICS Vulnerabilities introduces the readers to classes of ICS impacts such as Loss of Control and Denial of View. This has been talked about at S4 and other conferences by Zach Tudor, Bryan and others, but it has not yet been adopted by those entering the ICS security world. Chapter 3 will likely be the most beneficial to the largest number of readers.
Chapter 4 covers ICS Risk Assessment Techniques. Those new to ICS security will benefit from the first half of the chapter covering the most popular current techniques. The old hands are likely to learn more in the second half of the chapter where the authors cover possible future techniques.

Chapter 5: What Is Next In ICS Security focuses primarily on IPv6. It’s material readers won’t find elsewhere, but it seems a bit out of the flow of the book. My guess is IPv6 is something one or both of the authors feel passionate about and wanted to add it in. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of a self-reward as writing a book is a very difficult.

So why not a 5-star review? McCauley and Singer actually predict the reason in Chapter 1. They write “We intend to satisfy a wide range of readers in this book; this is where we become most ambitious”. They are writing for the IT security professional who doesn’t know ICS and for the ICS engineer who doesn’t know security. Inevitably there are chunks of information that are simplistic for either audience, and this comes at the expense of an even more in depth discussion. It’s an understandable decision to take this approach since it increases the potential readership size.

This is clearly the book to get or give if you want to read about ICS security today.