- Critical Systems Support Life as We Know It
- Critical Systems Depend on Solid State Controls (SCADA Systems)
- Damage to SCADA Systems Has Far-Reaching Consequences
- Everything BreaksEventually
- Critical Systems Are Interdependent
- Modeling and Planning Tools Lag the Threat
- We Can Refer to Past Practices, To an Extent
- Worried Enough Yet? Consider Solar Storms
We Can Refer to Past Practices, To an Extent…
Because SCADA systems look and act a lot like personal computers, some 20 years worth of operating and security standards exist on the care, feeding, and maintenance of such systems. Many were published as early as the 1980s by the undersigned. This step could reduce some of the exposure to cyber attacks, for example. In addition, it may be possible to “harden” SCADA systems against EMP cost effectively through the use of Faraday cage enclosures, such as were discussed in Part II of this series.
As a general rule, SCADA system components are frequently situated in remote environments and/or operate without proximate human intervention. Their critical electronic components are usually contained within some sort of metallic box, which is in fact one component of a Faraday cage. Today’s enclosures are really designed only to provide protection from the elements and basic physical security. They are not designed to protect the contents from EMP.
For one thing, EMP could infiltrate the case from antennas, cables, or other components. Is it possible to build an EMP-proof enclosure? Sadly, the answer is probably no. Is it possible to build an EMP-resistant enclosure? I believe it is. A few dollars spent on materials and new standards for both enclosures and grounding could drastically reduce damage, particularly for equipment in “fringe” areas more distant from ground-zero of an EMP attack.
In any case, heightened awareness of the vulnerability of critical national infrastructures caused by the EMP threat to the SCADA control systems is important. We must first develop a sense of the vulnerability of the underlying hardware components themselves from all angles then put the engineers to work. As an example, consider the shielding used in automobile ignition systems. Cars predated radios installed in cars. When radios were first installed, they picked up all kinds of interference from the ignition system in the car. Thereafter came new innovations such as improved shielding on ignition wires, resistor spark plugs, and better grounding and shielding on the radio itself. As a result, when is the last time you heard radio static when you stepped on the gas? It did not cost a lot to do either in hindsight. The same kind of effort is called for here.