Securing your control systems – what are your priorities?

Information security focuses on three aspects of safeguarding data in our systems (CIA):

  • Confidentiality: data should only be visible to those who have been granted access to them
  • Integrity: data should not be altered by people not authorized to do so
  • Availability: data should be available to everyone and all systems that need them, when the data is needed

In traditional IT, security thinking has been dominated by confidentiality. This is in most cases justified; the data itself is the valuable asset (think credit card information, medical journals, police records, accounting, business plans, etc.). In control systems, the real value is governed by the process control by the control system assets, and availability is extremely import, as well as integrity. Confidentiality on the other side may be less important.

Many organizations plan their security management based on traditional IT priorities, and apply these priorities also in the control system domain. This way, there may be a misalignment between the real priorities of the organization, and where the money and resources is spent.

Dr. Eric Cole, a renowned security expert, recommends asking senior management for these priorities, and then comparing with actual security expenditure from the last year – if there is misalignment between “what’s important” and “what’s done” it is time to take action. Have your thought through if your organization is spending the money where they are most needed to safeguard what is truly critical?

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