State-of-the-art Cyber Security for Pipeline Infrastructure
Proceedings Publication Date
Asim Zaidi
Benjamin Dennhardt, Asim Zaidi
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The recent conflicts between Ukraine and Russia have exposed the vulnerability of the European gas supply, emphasizing the need for protecting the extensive gas pipeline network. In Germany, the natural gas network spans over 40,000 km for long-distance transmission and more than 470,000 km for regional distribution, presenting a complex infrastructure with multiple segregated control units.

Gas pipelines heavily rely on automation and Operation Technology (OT) for cost-effective remote operation. While automation offers operational benefits, it also introduces new risks, notably cyberattacks that have grown increasingly sophisticated. Such attacks, driven by political or financial motives, pose significant threats to critical infrastructure, as demonstrated by the infamous colonial pipeline attack in the US. Pipeline operators face an additional challenge of monitoring and protecting their assets spread over a wide geographical area.

To address the mounting cyber threats, companies seek protection against cyber-threats and adherence to regulations like the NIS 2.0, which mandates robust cybersecurity measures for pipeline networks. Industrial cybersecurity focuses on securing OT networks and connected devices, which often operate for extended periods without regular updates, in contrast to well-protected IT systems.

A three-step approach is commonly used to develop a strong OT cyber defence: assessment, targeted to identified gaps, a sophisticated installation and continuous protection, especially critical for the segregated and remote systems prevalent in pipelines. Human vulnerability is  a significant concern and addressed through training, awareness, and technical measures. Additionally, advanced installations undergo regular vulnerability checks to validate their security measures.

The managerial challenge lies in defining a practical and cost-effective defence approach. This paper aims to showcase cutting-edge technologies and approaches for cybersecurity, aligned with the NIS 2.0 regulation, specifically tailored to the unique characteristics of pipeline networks. The objective is to demonstrate how these technologies meet regulatory demands and provide valuable guidance for their implementation.

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