Scada workshops launched to protect critical infrastructure

Government establishes new portal

The federal government is conducting a series of workshops on cyber threats to supervisory and industrial control systems.

ICT Minister, Helen Coonan, said today the government recognizes the important role of Scada systems and the seriousness of the cyber threat.

"These systems play a vital role in Australia's critical infrastructure," Senator Coonan said.

The Minister said supervisory and industrial control systems are the 'central nervous system' for a vast array of sensors, alarms and switches that provide automated control and monitoring functions for critical infrastructure.

But they are focused on workplace safety, not IT, and are typically used in the water, electricity, gas, transport, broadcasting and communications sectors.

"Many supervisory and industrial control systems were designed before the Internet became widely adopted. As these systems are being connected to the Internet they are being exposed to emerging IT security threats," Senator Coonan said.

This point was central to a number of presentations made at AusCERT, the leading IT security conference for the Asia Pacific, which was held last month.

The workshops and executive briefings are part of an ongoing partnership between the federal government and industry for the protection of Australia's critical infrastructure.

The government has been working with industry on the security of these systems under the auspices of the Trusted Information Sharing Network (TISN), since 2005.

"I encourage Australian companies that operate these systems to attend these sessions for leading-edge advice on threats and vulnerabilities and mitigation strategies," Senator Coonan said.

During the workshops a new information portal will be launched which will give Australian owners and operators of critical infrastructure a trusted environment for exchanging information and raise awareness of IT security issues for supervisory and industrial control systems.

The sessions will include presentations from visiting experts from the National Cyber Security Division of the United States Department of Homeland Security.

The all-day practitioner workshops and one-hour executive sessions will be held in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide in June.

For further information on these initiatives visit www.dcita.gov.au to register.

At AusCERT White House staffer Marcus Sachs told conference attendees that control systems in decades past have traditionally been private, and not connected to the Internet.

This has certainly changed today as connectivity has grown, he said.

"Weak security protocols that characterize the Internet have now transferred to industrial control systems," Sachs said.

There is no authentication in most SCADA protocols.

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