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McAfee-Intel eye critical infrastructure protection

May 15, 20123 mins
Critical InfrastructureData and Information Security

On the heels of recent cyberattacks against natural gas pipelines in the U.S., McAfee and Intel are announcing a new initiative to protect critical infrastructure.

Their press release, sent my way a few minutes ago, describes a blueprint for a “comprehensive solution of multiple products that create layers of security and operate together without great complexity or without impacting availability.”

From the press release:

McAfee and Intel created a “reference implementation” that integrates a number of McAfee security solutions relevant to substations and network operations centers with selected Intel processors and hardware-based security and manageability technologies.  The reference implementation emulates the components and functionality commonly found in a critical infrastructure environment.  The added capability of end-point security, network security and security management solutions can deliver a secure environment with increased reliability. 

The “reference implementation” allows the audience to witness the system response of an unsuccessful cyber-attack thwarted by McAfee Embedded Control and the impact of a successful attack on an “improperly configured” system.  The audience can see how the critical infrastructure operator can remotely and securely mitigate the threat of the comprised “improperly configured” system with McAfee’s ePolicy Orchestrator coupled with Intel  vPro Technology.

Protecting utility infrastructure is challenging for many reasons including network diversity, data overload, complex endpoint management and tools that lack the right security context for energy.  McAfee unifies situational awareness and multi-zone protection using purpose-built, compliance-oriented solutions to prevent attacks in real-time.  This end-to-end security solution features remote management using Intel AMT to lower device support costs.

Says Eric Knapp, critical infrastructure expert at McAfee: “To adequately secure critical systems against cyber attacks, the right products and technologies must be integrated into the entire infrastructure — from the enterprise, to the SCADA and control systems, and even to the automated device networks—without impacting reliability or interfering with operations.  McAfee, together with Intel, has combined commercially-available chipset capabilities and cyber security products into the perfect recipe for substation security, providing advanced protection while removing operational complexity, and improving reliability through remote manageability.”

I find it slightly odd that this is being announced as a partnership. Since Intel owns McAfee, doesn’t that make this a new product from the same company? I admit I’m just picking nit.

I am glad to see security vendors increasingly focused on threats to critical infrastructure, given the massive vulnerabilities that threaten it. Expect to see a torrent of critical-infrastructure based announcements from the major vendors in the coming weeks and months.

The most recent incident response report from the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) — part of DHS — warns of an ongoing cyberattack against the computer networks of US natural gas pipeline companies.

ICS-CERT says it first identified an active series of cyber intrusions targeting natural gas pipeline sector companies in March. Various sources provided information to ICS-CERT describing targeted attempts and intrusions into multiple natural gas pipeline sector organizations, the report says. Analysis of the malware and characteristics of the attacks link it back to a single campaign, ICS-CERT added.