WALLIX and Schneider Electric strengthen industrial systems security

Since industrial systems are increasingly connected to information systems for production management, planning, and remote access matters, security issues are spreading throughout industrial computing.

The partnership between WALLIX and Schneider Electric has resulted in the creation of the i-PAM (Industrial Privileged Access Management) solution, designed to control and secure the access of maintainers and remote-maintainers to industrial architectures. Our expert on industrial system security, Christophe Varin – Key Account Manager at WALLIX, discusses the added value of the i-PAM solution.

Hello Christophe, industrial systems security is at the heart of cyber issues. How is this issue different from other sectors?

Hello. The production and distribution of energy, the refining and distribution of hydrocarbons, the production lines of motor vehicles, etc. are industrial systems that naturally come to mind. But public transport, smart buildings, data centers and their air-conditioning, and even cold chains of large-scale distribution systems are also industrial systems.

These systems make it possible to control a physical process (PLC, control / command), unlike computer networks whose object is to process information.  But in both cases, access security and data or installations integrity are major issues. It is more so when an industrial system is identified as a critical infrastructure by the State, that is to say an attack on this system can endanger the national balance.

The problem is that the cyber risk linked to information systems is spreading on industrial networks.

Since industrial systems are increasingly connected to information systems for production management, planning, and remote access matters, security issues are spreading throughout industrial computing.

We have seen this when a system interconnection vulnerability was exploited to carry out an attack on Target, where hackers stole millions of bank data by usurping the credentials and passwords of a service provider in charge of the air conditioning system to infiltrate the PoS (Point of Sales).

The challenge is therefore to compensate for the lack of imperviousness of these two networks, which is the main source of concern.

On the other hand, industrial managers generally have a less developed IT risk culture. This is due to industry-specific business challenges related to the ongoing operation, operating costs, and high availability of the physical facilities they control. Priority is therefore given to the availability and safe operation of equipment, often above security.

Are there other specific issues related to the safety of industrial systems?

Manufacturers are beginning to become aware of the cybersecurity challenges they face. Industrial environments are built to last; some have been frozen for several decades. This makes raising awareness of industrial players to the safety of facilities all the more delicate.

The fact that players like Schneider Electric are acting on this issue by communicating state-of-the-art cybersecurity practices to their customers is a very positive indicator for the education of this group and offers it a real opportunity to play an essential role in the digital trust chain.

To secure industrial systems, what solutions can be put in place?

Securing industrial control systems (ICS) involves setting up firewall technologies, mapping industrial assets, and protecting access.

It is understood that the minimum requirement to secure ICS is to control the access and actions carried out on the control and supervision consoles of these systems (SCADA), whether they are carried out by the service providers when it comes to maintenance, or by control operators. These two variables are extremely powerful vulnerabilities for industrial systems since they can directly compromise their availability and operation.

Schneider Electric plays an essential role in securing ICS. How does its association with WALLIX generate greater confidence among industrial players?

The credibility of Schneider Electric, a world leader in energy management and automation, on this issue is recognized and acknowledged. The fact that it raises awareness among their customers and prospects about cyber risks demonstrates their involvement in these issues. Thanks to its expertise, Schneider Electric has a real understanding of the challenges affecting the Industry, which enables it to encourage industrial managers to take a more sophisticated stance on the safety of ICS, a choice that weighs more and more on their purchasing decisions.

Moreover, the existing position of WALLIX – expert in information systems security, in securing the information systems of the largest companies, makes it easier for IS players and industrial production players to relate to it. The expertise of Schneider Electric and WALLIX makes it possible to bring together those interlocutors who generally don’t communicate much, in order to facilitate dialogue to bring about standardized security.

WALLIX and Schneider Electric have therefore created a trusted solution (i-PAM) for a simple and effective implementation of best practice cybersecurity in industrial environments.

How does their solution interact with WALLIX Bastion to optimize the security of industrial systems and SCADA?

Our Bastion is integrated into the industrial appliances offered by Schneider Electric and which possess characteristics of resistance to heat, vibrations, or even water. It strengthens their security by controlling all access, whether within the company or remotely.  Its functionality for traceability of connections and for the accountability of actions also makes it possible to define and know who accesses what, when and why, which is the prerequisite for a good implementation of a security policy.

More specifically, if we take the example of large ports, an illegitimate action carried out on automated container loading gantry, and which can cause immediate damage, will be immediately blocked by the Bastion.

For more information, get in touch or request a demo.