This is the first in a series of articles on a topic of very good news for the ICS community. A panel at S4xEurope will highlight Secure PLC’s, and the event includes other sessions on PLC integrity and ICS secure protocols. It’s time to plan for your next ICS, or even accelerating upgrade plans, to be securable.

At S4x13 Reid Wightman and a team of five researchers made very public in Project Basecamp what was a dirty little secret – – -PLC’s, RTU’s and other Level 1 devices were easily exploited and used by attackers to affect the availability and integrity of the process being controlled. There still are disagreements on whether Project Basecamp was helpful, hurtful or had no impact on ICS security.

While there were howls that Project Basecamp provided attackers with as yet unknown vulnerabilities, over the past four years most have come to realize that Project Basecamp actually highlighted the “Insecure By Design” nature of these devices. Why should an attacker bother with vulnerabilities and exploits when the features and functions are already in the device and available without defeating any security controls? Insecure By Design is the term we use to describe how the attack capabilities an adversary would want are actually documented features and functions of PLC/RTU/Level 1 Device.

Or at least they were.

A number of the vendors who unknowingly at the time had devices in Project Basecamp have been hard at work starting and improving their Security Development Lifecycle, integrating important integrity features such as firmware signing and secure boot, and even adding support for ICS protocols with source and data authentication. This effort is broader than the Project Basecamp vendors and even includes some new companies, such as Bedrock Automation, who are integrating security from the start in their design process.

We have spent the last three weeks getting information on the progress towards a secure PLC and secure ICS protocols with some of the leading vendors, and we still are gathering more information. The result will be a set of articles highlighting serious security progress by PLC vendors.

On a personal note, it is so nice to be writing about good news on Level 1 security. Now that secure solutions are near, asset owners need to be insuring their next ICS is taking advantage of this progress. Asset owners also need to be thinking about accelerating upgrades of their most critical ICS.