Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Security in large distributed networks (aka Smart Grids)

Security is not only a crucial requirement for conventional data and communication networks. It must be also addressed in networks that are installed and operated to automate and manage energy grids in order to achive a Smart Grid. Definitions may vary but the need for security in the area of critical infrastructures is undisputed. Beyond architecture and compliance, real implementation requirements exist. The paper Enhancing IEC 62351 to Improve Security for Energy Automation in Smart Grid Environments presented at the 2010 Fifth International Conference on Internet and Web Applications and Services in Barcelona provides insights.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Test your security!

Testing security of distributed systems is a very complex thing (sure, security is complex inherently). This is because of the nature of security requirements which is functional as well as non-functional. To meet such basket of requirements, good practise is highly recommended. The subsequent bullets list the necessary steps in a proposed order to achieve this goal:
  • Document all functional and non-functional requirements and develop use case scenarios base on it (a picture helps a lot !)
  • Invite security professionals for support and guidance
  • Conduct a comprehensive threat assessment based on a well documented system architecture and (preferable) a security architecture (invite all relevant stakeholders: product management, architects, developer, test folks, …)
  • The architecture must support flexible patch and update management
  • Review the resulting design, at least the security relevant components
  • Check on all 3rd party components in detail to identify known weaknesses; if so, look for alternatives
  • Provide and teach (!) secure coding and secure design principles to the team
  • Make sure that the team has enough time to learn and to apply such rules and principles (project management must plan accordingly!)
  • Test all functional security requirements accoring to your test specification (use well documented requirements and use case scenarios to specify test cases)
  • Use tools to check your code to identify flaws and derivations from your guidelines mentioned above
  • Apply code review if tools are not sufficient
  • Use a realistic test environment (set up) to run a kinda black box test based on tools (fuzzer, etc.)
  • Test especially all user interface (focus on web based interfaces) as well as communication stacks
  • Document all testing results and establish a rating based on criticality
  • Communicate and share your experience