Mitigating Risks

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If you’re planning on taking the Security+ exam, you should have a basic understanding of the process of mitigating risks in different environments. For example, can you answer this question?

Q. Homer noticed that several generators within the nuclear power plant have been turning on without user interaction. Security investigators discovered that an unauthorized file was installed and causing these generators to start at timed intervals. Further, they determined this file was installed during a visit by external engineers. What should Homer recommend to mitigate this threat in the future?

A. Create an internal CA.

B. Implement WPA2 Enterprise.

C. Implement patch management processes.

D. Configure the SCADA within a VLAN.

More, do you know why the correct answer is correct and the incorrect answers are incorrect? The answer and explanation is available at the end of this post.

Mitigating Risk in Static Environments

Static computing environments are relatively constant, especially when compared with typical computers connected to a network. Historically, administrators didn’t see a need to provide much protection to these environments, but as with just about anything security related, things change. The need to protect them has become clearer in recent years. Some examples of static environments are:

  • Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. These are typically industrial control systems within large facilities such as power plants or water treatment facilities. These systems are typically contained within isolated networks that do not have access to the Internet.
  • Embedded systems. This includes computing components embedded in printers, smart televisions, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) control systems. Although these aren’t typical attack vectors, they could be. For example, suppose an attacker was able to remotely turn off the HVAC system or trick it into keeping the temperature at 95 degrees within a data center. The resulting damage to systems within this data center could be catastrophic.
  • Mobile systems. This includes devices running Android and Apple iOS operating systems. However, due to the growth in their use and capabilities, these are becoming less static.

Mitigating Risks

  • Mainframes. Mainframe computers are high-powered systems usually performing dedicated functions within an organization. Mainframes might be contained within isolated networks. However, it is more common for them to be connected to an organization’s primary network so that personnel can access them.
  • Game consoles. Gaming has become big business and has driven many of the advances in memory, graphics, and processor power. Today, gaming consoles have powerful processors for games, but also for connectivity with networks and other players, and players often have the ability to make in-game purchases through the systems. If the consoles hold credit card or other user data, they are susceptible to attacks just like any other computer.
  • In-vehicle computing systems. Most of today’s cars have powerful processors within them. Some ensure the engine is running smoothly and efficiently. Other embedded systems provide direct connectivity to services such as OnStar, satellite radio, and the Internet. In one reality show, police set a trap with a car in an area where several cars were stolen. A thief was in for a big surprise when he stole it, though. After breaking into the car, he was soon driving away. However, the police sent a signal to the car, turning its engine off, and they quickly apprehended the thief. If the police can do this, what happens when criminals learn how to do it, too?

Incorporating control redundancy and diversity into security designs is a key method of protecting static environments such as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. Networks holding SCADA systems can be protected using virtual local area networks (VLANs) to segment traffic and network-based intrusion protection systems (NIPS) to block unwanted traffic.

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  • Comparing Threats, Vulnerabilities, and Common Attacks (full content from Chapter 6 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
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  • Understanding Cryptography and PKI (full content from Chapter 10 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Implementing Policies to Mitigate Risks (full content from Chapter 11 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
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Q. Homer noticed that several generators within the nuclear power plant have been turning on without user interaction. Security investigators discovered that an unauthorized file was installed and causing these generators to start at timed intervals. Further, they determined this file was installed during a visit by external engineers. What should Homer recommend to mitigate this threat in the future?

A. Create an internal CA.

B. Implement WPA2 Enterprise.

C. Implement patch management processes.

D. Configure the SCADA within a VLAN.

Answer is D. The generators are likely controlled within a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system and isolating them within a virtual local area network (VLAN) will protect them from unauthorized access.

An internal certificate authority (CA) issues and manages certificates within a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), but there isn’t any indication certificates are in use. Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) secures wireless networks, but doesn’t protect SCADA networks.

Patch management processes help ensure systems are kept up to date with patches, but this doesn’t apply in this scenario.

See Chapter 5 of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide for more information on securing hosts and data.

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