BlogVer todas las entradas

8 mayo, 2014 blog · Industria 4.0 · Monitorización

Cyber security countermeasures for SCADA systems. Example of the IDbox system developed by CIC Consulting

The popularity and broad implementation of SCADA systems worldwide highlights the importance of security solutions. This paper provides a short overview of main weaknesses of modern SCADA systems and describes an example of a Cybersecurity countermeasure, data-diode, implemented in IDbox system and deployed in critical environments in Spain. The paper concludes with several suggestions focused on modernization and optimization of security requirements in data acquisition systems.


SCADA systems represent an important tool that enables a quick and accurate data acquisition, certainly they are a perfect source for Big Data, since the quantity of data they generate is much larger than any other systems dealing with information, like  for  example  corporate  systems. Without a doubt, SCADAs are benefitial, and this is one of the reasons why there are so many Scada systems in  the  world  –  many organizations that deal with industrial environments have one. According to the last “Internet Security Threat Report” published by Symantec, in 2012 there were 85 public SCADA vulnerabilities.

“Since the emergence of the Stuxnet worm in 2010,  SCADA  systems  have  attracted  more attention from  security researchers”  (Paganini, 2013)

SCADA is considered to be a backbone not only of the plant (organization), but of  the country itself (Paganini, 2013).  The incredibly high  number of SCADA systems operating worldwide, more than 3 million (Hildick-Smith, 2005), and the fact that they are implemented in many sensitive and strategic industries, makes us seriously take into consideration security requirements.

It is compulsory to have a global approach to solve this big and real external threat, and to do it in a big team.


The IDbox software, developed by the Spanish company CIC Consulting, is an integrated system that provides different solutions in regard with industrial  data  from  various  heterogeneous sources:  data  acquisition  and  monitoring in  real time, processing relying on CEP (complex event processing), storage and analysis of historical and real-time data. At a first glance it can be considered as a SCADA system, but it is more than this. The main purpose of IDbox is to integrate all the available sensors, PLCs, SCADAs and other data acquisition systems, and bring together all the information on a single platform.

The IDbox solution was first implemented in the nuclear power plant of Garoña (Burgos, Spain) and later in the NPPs of the groups AVAN and CNAT, also in Spain. Currently IDbox is used almost in all nuclear Spanish plants. The software provides essential services within critical infrastructures, like energy, telecommunications, water systems, emergency services, industrial plants, and meets all the specific requirements, particularly security requirement.

      2.1. Security Concerns of IDbox

IDbox, like any SCADA system, had to solve the important security concerns, such as information security (data acquisition) and application security (access  to  data).  It  certainly  requires  protection from a variety of cyber threats that could compromise the ordinary operation of IDbox. The Cybersecurity deserves a  special attention since the IDbox system uses web technology for data access and it is of vital importance to secure transference of information through the networks and block the operational area where PLCs from which data is gathered are very vulnerable to any manipulation. Out company would like to share some experience and solutions that we found for this particular concern.

The simple and robust solution adopted for IDbox was a data diode, a hardware device that only lets data out of the perimeter and prevents any data from coming in. It is especially suitable for critical environments, like nuclear industry. Separating the two networks, process network from management one, the data diode limited the visibility needed to protect against targeted attacks. It only provides read access to the data preventing anybody from writing data to the PLCs.

The system allows to work in UDP mode enabling one-way communications (from the process net to the   management   net),   since   the   data   diode excludes any use of TCP communications which is bi-directional. One-way communications security is perfect to protect the low level of data acquisition, a highly secured zone, from any outside attack that may damage the integrity and correctness of PLCs functioning.

       2.1.1. Importance of robust devices

Data diodes in the case of IDbox are not software solutions, they are considered on the hardware level – that is why users can’t misconfigure a data diode. Another important feature is that it is impossible that a physical data diode may let data flow back into the protected area (process network). So, it looks like the most secure choice.

We must bear in mind that a system like IDbox is directly or indirectly connected to the corporate network or even to the Internet, because the users need information. They must have an immediate access to the data of the plant, see the alarms, reports, make different types of analysis like trend or prediction, etc. Most business units and expert groups inside and outside the organization use the valuable data from IDbox, for example:

  • Accounting,
  • Maintenance,
  • Emergency Control,
  • Production,
  • Process Optimization,
  • Quality, etc…

That is why the issue of data security must be solved through tested and robust devices.

Of course, while implementing a SCADA system, the manufacturer must align the cybersecurity requirements with those related to the Customer and his Sector.

Another important questions – prevent security threats through auditing strategies to reduce the causes of vulnerability.


IDbox is a reliable and flexible system that has an implemented security procedure that proved to be the right solution in critical environments. The above mentioned experience helps to prevent from manipulation of operational data that could have serious consequences for the population. It is the duty and responsibility of any company that develops a SCADA system to provide countermeasures to mitigate risks of cyber threats, and of any company that accepts installation of this system in her industrial environment – to supervise implementation of such measures.

Actually, as stated in the recent SCADA meeting in Australia, one of the common mistakes is the obsolence of integral parts of the SCADA framework. So, the suggestion is to implement a preventive maintenance, the same way as for machinery equipment in an industrial plant. Any replacement, improvement, additional development and any other smart measure will save not only money to the company, but also prevent from an undesirable external attack. In this sense it will be wise to consider an additional system that will not remove the existent SCADA but will be installed above it integrating all the information from it and any other system or data source, and improve this way any obsolete part. For example, the IDbox system fits into this scenario providing partial or complete replacement and optimising performance through modern technology.

It goes without saying that the issue of security in SCADA systems deserves a special attention from the Administration, as a logical consequence of it we all can think on a specific partnership between private and public sector (Hildick-Smith, 2005). A more active funding in security research and prompt effective results will be certainly beneficial for both parties

Another aspect to care is to have adequately trained personnel who can help not only by implementing a SCADA system but also in developing of auditing strategies concerning security threats and providing necessary improvements to ensure effective work and control.


Davis, C., Tate, J., Okhravi, H., Grier, C., Overbye, T., Nicol, D. () SCADA Cyber Security Testbed Development.file:///C:/Users/ialexeeva/Documents/CIC/1.%20IDBOX/IAEA/SCADA%20Cybersecurity%20testbed.pdf  (20/04/2014)

Hildick-Smith, A. (2005) Security for Critical Infrastructure SCADA Systems. GSEC Practical Assignment. Version 1.4c, Option 1. SANS Institute.

Igure, M., Laughter S., Williams, R. (2006) Security issues in SCADA networks. Computers and Security, 25, 498-506.

Lee, H., Dongho, W. (2013) Protection Profile for Unidirectional Security Gateway between Networks. International Journal of Security and Its Applications, Vol.7, No.6, pp.373-384.

Macaulay, T., Singer, B. (2012) Cybersecurity for Industrial Control Systems. Taylor & Francis Group, USA.

McKey, M., (2012) Best practices in automation security. Siemens Industry. (10/03/2014)

Paganini P. (2013) Improving SCADA System Security. (22/04/2014)

Stevens, M. (1999) An Implementation of an Optical Data Diode. DSTO Electronics and Surveillance Research Laboratory, Australia.