Showing posts with label Industrial Wireless Networks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Industrial Wireless Networks. Show all posts

Industrial Wireless Systems Radio Propagation Measurements

Radio frequency (RF) propagation measurements were conducted at three facilities representing a cross-section of different classes of industrial environments. Selected sites included a multi-acre transmission assembly factory typical of the automotive industry; a small-sized machine shop primarily engaged in metalworking located on the NIST campus in Gaithersburg; and a steam generation plant located on the NIST campus in Boulder. A spread spectrum correlation sounder was used to take the measurements at a continuum of points throughout the facility by fixing the transmitter and moving the receiver at a constant rate throughout each facility. We analyzed the data collected from the RF propagation measurements of each site. Analysis is based on channel impulse response (CIR) measurements collected during the measurement using equipment developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The results of our analysis include a tabulated summary and detailed exploration of various industry accepted channel metrics such as path loss, delay spread, and K factor. Our interpretation of the measurements contributes to an improved understanding of radio frequency propagation in factories and an additional perspective on deploying wireless communication devices within factories.

This technical paper, provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), addresses concerns about the lack of industrial wireless networking reliability, determinism, and security through a multi-phased approach.


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US Power Grids, Oil and Gas Industries, and Risk of Hacking

A report released in June, from the security firm Dragos, describes a worrisome development by a hacker group named, “Xenotime” and at least two dangerous oil and gas intrusions and ongoing reconnaissance on United States power grids.

Multiple ICS (Industrial Control Sectors) sectors now face the XENOTIME threat; this means individual verticals – such as oil and gas, manufacturing, or electric – cannot ignore threats to other ICS entities because they are not specifically targeted.


The Dragos researchers have termed this threat proliferation as the world’s most dangerous cyberthreat since an event in 2017 where Xenotime had caused a serious operational outage at a crucial site in the Middle East. 

The fact that concerns cybersecurity experts the most is that this hacking attack was a malware that chose to target the facility safety processes (SIS – safety instrumentation system).

For example, when temperatures in a reactor increase to an unsafe level, an SIS will automatically start a cooling process or immediately close a valve to prevent a safety accident. The SIS safety stems are both hardware and software that combine to protect facilities from life threatening accidents.

At this point, no one is sure who is behind Xenotime. Russia has been connected to one of the critical infrastructure attacks in the Ukraine.  That attack was viewed to be the first hacker related power grid outage.

This is a “Cause for Concern” post that was published by Dragos on June 14, 2019

“While none of the electric utility targeting events has resulted in a known, successful intrusion into victim organizations to date, the persistent attempts, and expansion in scope is cause for definite concern. XENOTIME has successfully compromised several oil and gas environments which demonstrates its ability to do so in other verticals. Specifically, XENOTIME remains one of only four threats (along with ELECTRUM, Sandworm, and the entities responsible for Stuxnet) to execute a deliberate disruptive or destructive attack.

XENOTIME is the only known entity to specifically target safety instrumented systems (SIS) for disruptive or destructive purposes. Electric utility environments are significantly different from oil and gas operations in several aspects, but electric operations still have safety and protection equipment that could be targeted with similar tradecraft. XENOTIME expressing consistent, direct interest in electric utility operations is a cause for deep concern given this adversary’s willingness to compromise process safety – and thus integrity – to fulfill its mission.

XENOTIME’s expansion to another industry vertical is emblematic of an increasingly hostile industrial threat landscape. Most observed XENOTIME activity focuses on initial information gathering and access operations necessary for follow-on ICS intrusion operations. As seen in long-running state-sponsored intrusions into US, UK, and other electric infrastructure, entities are increasingly interested in the fundamentals of ICS operations and displaying all the hallmarks associated with information and access acquisition necessary to conduct future attacks. While Dragos sees no evidence at this time indicating that XENOTIME (or any other activity group, such as ELECTRUM or ALLANITE) is capable of executing a prolonged disruptive or destructive event on electric utility operations, observed activity strongly signals adversary interest in meeting the prerequisites for doing so.”

Industrial Wireless Networks

Industrial wireless networks (IWNs) are a key enabler of many aspects of advanced manufacturing. IWNs promise lower installation costs compared with wired alternatives, increased operational flexibility, improved factory visibility, and enhanced mobility. Wireless networks are not dissimilar to wired networks with the key exception being the transmission medium. Wired networks typically operate over copper wires, coaxial cable, or fiber optic cable depending on the network type. Wireless networks operate without wires or cables using the electromagnetic propagation. As such, wireless networks operate within a shared medium that is publicly accessible. A listing of wireless technologies is listed below:

Home and Office
This includes standards-based communications system typically found in the office environment but may be useful for the factory. Includes IEEE 802.11 variants and Wi-Fi compliant devices. Bluetooth also falls into this category.

Instrumentation
Includes systems specifically designed for factory operation. IEEE 802.15.4 standards such as International Society of Automation (ISA) 100.11a, WirelessHART (IEC 62591:2016), IEC 62601, and ZigBee fall into this category. High-performance standards built on IEEE 802.11 include the Wireless Networks for Industrial Automation - Factory Automation (WIA-FA) IEC 62948. Many exceptional proprietary options exist as well.

Wide Area Sensing
Some applications require the ability to transmit over long distances with minimal power to conserve battery life for sensing and control over wide geographical distances. Examples include LoRaWAN and Sigfox as well as modes of 4G and 5G cellular radio standards.

Other commercial
This category includes systems such as satellite, cellular, directional microwave data links, optical (visible light), and land-mobile radio. This category includes technologies supporting video and voice communication.