How Rising Concerns Regarding SCADA Vulnerability are Impacting Substation Automation Systems

  • September 30, 2015
  • Transparency Market Research
  • News
Industrial control systems used to automate substation facilities are representing the new face of convergence between modern information technology (IT) and legacy manufacturing systems. Seen as a way to modernize aging and distressing industrial infrastructure, intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) are rapidly replacing legacy systems that were used to receive or send data and/or controls from/to external sources such as digital relays, electronic multifunction meters, controllers, and sensors in a substation facility.

Automation of substation facilities have led to improved results in reliability, operational efficiency, asset management programs, and improved planning of industrial vicinities. Such industrial control systems (ICS) used for automating substations and a variety of industrial processes have proved their efficiency in not only managing a number of processes more efficiently but also in reducing operational and capital costs. Automation of substation has also led to the elimination of redundant databases and equipment characteristic of legacy industry facilities.

SCADA Vulnerability On the Rise

However, automation of substation facilities has lately come under scrutiny owing to the rising cases of targeted attacks on industrial control systems. ICS devices such as IEDs facilitate the exchange of a variety of critical operational data, also called supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) data, as well as non-operational data. As this data can be used to monitor and control industrial processes spread across remote manufacturing facilities and wide geographic areas, attack on industrial control systems can have serious implications on the overall functioning of a larger system. The scenario is especially more serious when systems operating in industries that manage critical infrastructure facilities such as energy and utilities, oil and gas, water, defense networks, and pharmaceuticals are considered.

Volkswagen Emission-tests-cheating Software

In the surging cases of cyberattacks on industrial control systems, consider the special case of the recent disclosure about how computers in Volkswagen vehicles were cheating on emission tests. The computers in Volkswagen vehicles were programmed to identify specific test conditions, reset pre-designed setpoints so they could meet emission standards, and then return to normal setpoints when the testing was complete. This is an example of how system logic or sensing mechanism in ICSs can be easily modified. 
Browse Market Research Report:

What is important note here is that compromising the control system logic and sensing mechanism are not the types of cyber incidents traditionally observed in ICS systems, which shows that attackers have started using intelligent methods to determine the times when a system needs to be compromised and when it needs to return to normal conditions.

Rising Concerns Regarding Vulnerability of ICS and Impact on Demand

The rise in sophistication and number of successful cyberattacks on ICS has started raising concerns among government bodies, organizations, and even the public. More publicized cyberattacks in the past had the threat actors’ motives focused on either financial gain or reputational or financial harm. With more attacks on SCADA surfacing, there is a rising concern regarding the issues that have come to the fore solely due to the convergence of IT with the operational landscape of critical infrastructures. The less connected industrial networks prior to the convergence of IT with critical infrastructure of an industrial facility were less vulnerable to security threats. Nevertheless, the many benefits of automating industry infrastructure with the help of advanced industrial control systems are enough to keep demand ripe for the global market for substation automation systems.

A recent report published by Transparency Market Research states that the global substation automation market will expand at a moderate, albeit positive CAGR of 5.4% between 2014 and 2020. The market, which had a valuation of US$96.52 bn in 2013, will rise to US$139.34 bn by 2020.
Learn More

Did you enjoy this great article?

Check out our free e-newsletters to read more great articles..