ing systems in buildings, petrochemical facilities, and manufacturing plants. But today’s SCADA systems have been designed with minimal attention to security. For example, data are often sent in the clear, and protocols for accepting commands are open, with no authentication required. Control channels are often wireless, or they are leased lines that pass through commercial telecommunications facilities. Thus there is little protection against the forgery of messages. And data corruption—not unlikely in these SCADA systems, much of whose technology is old—could be entirely crippling.

In addition, because deregulation has meant placing a premium on using existing capacity more efficiently, interconnections to shift supply from one location to another have increased, making SCADA systems more indispensable than ever. As one example, the electric-power grid has become more heterogeneous in terms of the number and types of power-generation devices—solar cells, microturbines, and many other sources all contribute to the network from far-flung locations. Thus, problems of distributed dynamic control in a complex, highly interactive system, controlled in real time, have become major issues in operating the power grid reliably, even under routine conditions.

Making the present systems more secure, moreover, is not simply a question of installing additional layers of technology. Given the real-time nature of SCADA, timing is quite important to system performance and optimal efficiency; operations can demand millisecond accuracy. But security add-ons in such an environment can complicate timing estimates and severely degrade SCADA performance.

Several issues must be addressed in the effort to improve the security of SCADA technologies. First, there is a need for much additional research and modeling on the existing SCADA systems, especially those that monitor networks such as pipelines or power grids, in order to understand their vulnerabilities. Some of this modeling and analysis must be undertaken by the operators themselves, and indeed this has begun since September 11; the chemical industry, for one, reports that SCADA systems in refineries have been under review. There is also a role for government at both the national and state levels—for example, in detecting vulnerabilities in present systems through comprehensive gaming (red teaming) analysis.

Second, investments will have to be made if existing SCADA technologies are to be upgraded and new ones deployed. Federal and state governments should offer incentives that encourage the appropriate private sector investments.

Third, the government must work with industry associations on standards that will enhance both the technology and its security. The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which has long played such a role at the federal level, should lead this effort.

SCADA systems are discussed further in Chapter 5 (“Information Technology”) and Chapter 6 (“Energy Systems”).



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement