Title: Cyber threats for operational technologies

Authors: Giacomo Assenza; Luca Faramondi; Gabriele Oliva; Roberto Setola

Addresses: Complex System and Security Lab, University Campus Bio-Medico of Rome, Rome, 00128, Italy ' Complex System and Security Lab, University Campus Bio-Medico of Rome, Rome, 00128, Italy ' Complex System and Security Lab, University Campus Bio-Medico of Rome, Rome, 00128, Italy ' Complex System and Security Lab, University Campus Bio-Medico of Rome, Rome, 00128, Italy

Abstract: Most critical sectors worldwide rely on operational technology (OT) whose cybersecurity, due to the primary need of availability, results to be obsolete and inadequate. Episodes like Stuxnet, Irongate, BlackEnergy3, etc., showed that cyberattacks causing kinetic effects have become a concrete threat. This is particularly concerning in relation to the chemical process industry (CPI) as disruptions could involve the release of hazardous materials and result in catastrophic effects. So far, OT-targeted cyber-attacks are considered so complex that only sophisticated teams with significant technical and organisational resources are likely to succeed. This paper provides a critical review of the most relevant elements with a focus on the petrol-chemical sector. It will first discuss why OT is inherently insecure. It will then analyse how the cyber-threat has evolved and it will review relevant OT-targeted cyberattacks. Finally, it will introduce the concept of advanced persistent threats (APT) and discuss their characterisation and modus operandi.

Keywords: cyber-security; operational technology; cyber-threat; chemical industry; process security; SCADA; supervisory control and data acquisition; APT; advanced persistent threats; critical infrastructure; ICS; industrial control systems.

DOI: 10.1504/IJSSE.2020.109127

International Journal of System of Systems Engineering, 2020 Vol.10 No.2, pp.128 - 142

Received: 21 May 2019
Accepted: 04 Dec 2019

Published online: 18 Aug 2020 *

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