Enhancing Cybersecurity for Connected Serial Devices

Enhancing Cybersecurity for Connected Serial Devices

  • June 2, 2022
  • Moxa Technologies Inc.
  • Feature

Improving cybersecurity for connected serial devices
Improving cybersecurity for connected serial devices

Industrial network security is no longer a luxury option, it is a necessity. A series of high-profile cyber attacks targeting critical infrastructure has underscored the need for industrial organizations to prioritize cybersecurity.

Regardless of the industry you are in, potential threats are everywhere. Recent incidents include hackers shutting down a fuel pipeline and demanding millions of dollars in ransom payments, and a ransomware attack on self-service ticket vending machines by a UK railway company that left the machines out. line. Needless to say, these types of cyberattacks have huge costs and disadvantages for industrial operators and their end users. To make matters worse, predicting where the next cyberattack will occur is almost impossible, which means that anyone or anything connected to a network can be a target.

To improve network security, you can replace your computer with newer models that have built-in security functionality. However, replacing equipment will be costly and will involve significant deployment and installation efforts. In addition, the legacy equipment is likely to be in good working order. A more realistic option is to update the security patches on existing computers. Unfortunately, some legacy computers still use older operating systems that no longer support the latest security patches; Windows XP is one example. In this article, Moxa’s cybersecurity experts discuss the challenges facing industrial operators and the solutions that improve cybersecurity with minimal effort.

Challenges to secure cutting-edge networks

To improve operational efficiency, industrial operators must take advantage of the capabilities of current networks to perform real-time remote monitoring. However, it also means that field devices can no longer be left out of the air. The first challenge is to connect old equipment using RS-232/422/485 communications to your local area network (LAN) or the Internet, which uses Ethernet communications. Serial devices on Ethernet, such as serial device servers or protocol gateways, depending on the transparent transmissions or protocol conversions required by the application, can connect serial-based equipment to Ethernet-based networks. Once the legacy devices are connected, unfortunately the security issues raise the ugly head, especially if the connection does not have adequate protection. Therefore, it is essential to find a serial device on Ethernet that ensures secure connectivity without replacing existing serial devices.

How to Choose a Secure Serial Ethernet Device

Current security standards, such as IEC 62443 and NERC CIP, are available to help protect your network infrastructure. These security standards include guidelines to help verify network devices and qualified component vendors. Therefore, it is an easy way to find a secure Ethernet device that meets industry security standards. Moxa is an IEC 62443-4-1 certified network solution provider and the design of standard Moxa devices over Ethernet is based on IEC 62443-4-2. With built-in security features, Moxa Ethernet serial devices enhance network security and reduce the chances of unwanted actors accessing serial computers through Moxa devices.

Two real examples: Improving cybersecurity

Secure serial device servers and Moxa protocol gateways have helped customers increase the security of their connectivity in a variety of industrial applications. To prove it, here are two real-life examples showing how Moxa NPort 6150 series device servers and Moxa MGate MB3000 protocol gateways reinforce cybersecurity in the power industry.

Issue 1: A Moxa customer with more than 600 gas stations in the United States required real-time monitoring of their oil tank levels with “ATG” (automatic tank indicator, usually with serial interfaces) to schedule replacements. inventory as needed in remote locations. They also needed the data from the POS terminals of the gas pumps to be sent to the store for processing and transaction logs. These connectivity requirements are security sensitive. Information on deposit levels must be well secured so that it cannot be tampered with, and POS data contains confidential consumer information, which must be further protected. To improve the security of connectivity, the connection between the gas station and the computer room of the store also requires protection. In addition, to ensure that connected devices operate at acceptable security levels, IT personnel must periodically run vulnerability scans to update the firmware and security patches while maintaining secure communication systems.

Solution: Moxa NPort 6150 series device servers include basic security features such as user authentication and an accessible IP list to increase device security with device access control. During operations, Moxa products support a data encryption feature to improve the security of transmission when sending data in series via Ethernet. To facilitate the day-to-day maintenance of IT staff, NPort 6150 Series Device Servers support tools to facilitate the configuration and management of many devices.

Issue 2: A data center service provider and its data centers have been frequently targeted by cyber intruders, which has led to significant data loss and penalties over the past five years. To reduce the chances of being hacked, cybersecurity has become a corporate initiative. Security risk assessments not only focus on server room vulnerabilities, but also extend to all network entry points, including the power supplies provided by server rooms.

Solution: To monitor power usage and quality, power supply equipment, including switchgear, PDUs, and UPSs, are connected to networks to allow operators to receive real-time information. MGate M3ate MB3000 protocol gateways connect communication between serial-based Modbus RTU devices, such as power meters used inside power supplies, and Ethernet-based SCADA systems in the control center. When corporate IT personnel need to perform a vulnerability scan, they can scan thousands of MGate MB3000 protocol gateways so that they can take immediate action if they identify a vulnerability.

To facilitate the work of IT staff, Moxa also scans for vulnerabilities on a regular basis and, if necessary, takes the necessary actions, such as updating security patches and firmware to reduce potential threats. In addition, the Moxa MGate MB3000 protocol gateways include an easy-to-use configuration tool in both GUI and CLI format, which helps OT and IT users easily manage bulk firmware updates. MGa M3ate MB3000 protocol gateways not only allow customers to control the power usage of their serial-based devices, but also alleviate their security issues and daily operating efforts at the same time.

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