MSI Strategy & Tactics Ep. 17: Thoughts On The SCADA Breach In Springfield, Illinois

What happened with the water facility SCADA breach in Springfield Illinois? ICS-SCADA security has been on our radar for a few months, now. The recent attack on a water plant in Illinois has highlighted existing vulnerabilities that open the door to malware. In this special edition of MSI Strategy & Tactics, Chris Lay, Account Executive, interviews MSI CEO, Brent Huston on the breach. Take a listen! Discussion questions include:

  • Breaking down the nuts and bolts of the attack
  • The similarities and differences of the attack vs. the Stuxnet worm
  • What ICS-SCADA organizations can learn from this attack

Brent Huston, CEO, Founder, and Security Evangelist
Chris Lay, Account Executive
Mary Rose Maguire, Marketing Communication Specialist and moderator

Click the embedded player to listen. Or click this link to access downloads. Stay safe!

Business of Security Webcast Featuring Brent Huston: December 7

Join the Business of Security to hear from Brent Huston, recent winner of (ISC)2 Information Security Leadership Award, who will lay out the need for and principles of performing detection in depth. Brent, CEO and Security Evangelist of MicroSolved, will share his research and hands-on experience that validates the leading approach for detecting threats against your most precious assets.

When: Wednesday, December 7th, Noon EDT
Where: GoToWebinar
Cost: Complimentary Register to attend live or to receive the event archive information for on-demand viewing at:

You’ll learn:

  • Huston’s postulate and why location matters
  • The detection in depth maturity model
  • The detection in depth focus model
  • Tools and approaches for doing detection in depth

Brent’s contribution to the community was recognized by (ISC)2 for employing the HoneyPoint Internet Threat Monitoring Environment (HITME) to alert critical infrastructure organizations whose machines are compromised. MSI provides pro-bono services to help them to mitigate the compromise and manage the threat.

Earn (1) CPE Group A credit for the CISSP and SSCP: This event meets the criteria for a Continuing Professional Education (CPE) activity for the Information Security and Risk Management domain.

MSI Strategy & Tactics Talk Ep. 15: Information Security for Credit Unions

Credit Unions have become popular over the past few weeks as societal trends have placed greater pressure on bank policies. What’s the scoop on Credit Unions and information security? Take a listen! Discussion questions include:

  • Supporting Credit Union swap through infosec
  • The “hactivist” group Anonymous and “Dump Your Bank Day”
  • Is infosec strong at Credit Unions?
  • Our approaching toward testing Credit Unions and banking apps

Brent Huston, CEO, Founder, and Security Evangelist
Adam Hostetler, Network Engineer and Security Analyst
Phil Grimes, Security Analyst
John Davis, Risk Management Engineer
Mary Rose Maguire, Marketing Communication Specialist and moderator

Click the embedded player to listen. Or click this link to access downloads. Stay safe!

The Detection in Depth Focus Model & Example

Furthering the discussion on how detection in depth works, here is an example that folks have been asking me to demonstrate. This is a diagram that shows an asset, in this case PII in a database that is accessed via a PHP web application. The diagram shows the various controls around detection in place to protect the data at the various focus levels for detection. As explained in the maturity model post before, the closer the detection control is to the asset, the higher the signal to noise ratio it should be and the higher the relevance o the data should be to the asset being protected (Huston’s Postulate). 

Hopefully, this diagram helps folks see a working example of how detection in depth can be done and why it is not only important, but increasingly needed if we are going to turn the tide on cyber-crime.
As always, thanks for reading and feel free to engage with ideas in comments or seek me out on Twitter (@lbhuston) and let me know what you think. 

Detection in Depth Maturity Model

I have been discussing the idea of doing detection depth pretty heavily lately. One of the biggest questions I have been getting is about maturity of detection efforts and the effectiveness of various types of controls. Here is a quick diagram I have created to help discuss the various tools and where they fit into the framework of detection capability versus maturity/effectiveness.

The simple truth is this, the higher the signal to noise ratio a detection initiative has, the better the chance of catching the bad event. Detections layered together into various spots work better than single layer controls. In most cases, the closer you get to an asset, the more nuanced and focus (also higher signal to noise ratio) the detection mechanisms should become.
That is, for example – a tool like a script detecting new files with “base64decode()” in them on a web server is much higher signal than a generic IDS at the perimeter capturing packets and parsing them against heuristics.
When the close controls fire an alert, there better be a clear and present danger. When the distant controls alert, there is likely to be more and more noise as the controls gain distance from the asset. Technology, detection focus and configuration also matter A LOT. 
All of that said, detection only works if you can actually DO something with the data. Alarms that fire and nothing happens are pretty much useless tools. Response is what makes detection in depth a worthwhile, and necessary, investment.

Presentation Slides Available from The Ohio SCADA Security Symposium

Although we had a panel discussion, (and some presentations that were confidential) we do have a few we can share. If you’d like to view the slides for them, please visit our presentation page. We’re looking forward to doing this again next year! Thanks to all who came and to our speakers, who were very generous with their time and expertise!

How To Increase Cooperation Between SCADA/ICS and the IT Department


Here is a mind map of a set of ideas for increasing the cooperation, coordination and socialization between the ICS/SCADA operations team and their traditional IT counterparts. Last week, at the Ohio SCADA Security Symposium this was identified as a common concern for organizations. As such, we wanted to provide a few ideas to consider in this area. Let us know in the comments or on twitter if you have any additional ideas and we’ll get them added to a future version of the mind map. Click here to download the PDF.

Thoughts From The Ohio SCADA Security Symposium



This week, I had the distinct pleasure of playing MC at the 1st annual Ohio SCADA/ICS Security Symposium. The event was held in Columbus Ohio and offered a variety of speakers from federal, state and local government, as well as panels on controls that work and projects that have failed to succeed that included representatives from power, gas, water and manufacturing. These were powerful discussions and the content was eye-opening to many of the participants.

First, I would like to say thank you to all who were involved in the symposium. Their efforts in organizing, executing and attending the event are greatly appreciated. Feedback about the event has been spectacular, and we all look forward to participating again next year.
That said, one of the largest identified issues among the conversations at the symposium was the idea that cooperation and coordination between control network operators and engineers and their peers on the traditional business-oriented IT staff is difficult, if not nearly impossible.
This seems to be a common conundrum that many organizations are facing. How do you get these two sides to talk? How do you get them to participate in conversations about best practices and technology advances in their respective areas? It seems, that even though these two camps share similar architectures, common dependencies and often similar skill sets, that those things are still not enough to bring them together.
In the spirit of the symposium, and in the conversation openness that we identified and encouraged, I would like to ask for your input on this topic. What does your organization do to facilitate open communications between these two groups? What works for your teams? If you haven’t had success, what have you tried and why do you think it failed? Please feel free to discuss in the comments, on the OhioSCADA group on LinkedIn or even reach out to me personally on twitter (@lbhuston).
As always, thanks for reading and I look forward to the conversation that follows. Maybe together, we can identify some strategies that work and potentially bridge the gap between these two stakeholding groups. Clearly, from the discussions at the symposium, if we can fix this we can go a long way toward helping ourselves better the security posture and operational capabilities of our environments.

MSI Strategy & Tactics Talk Ep. 14: Security Rants and More!

This edition covers a variety of topics —  Discussion questions include:

  • Footprinting and understanding environments
  • Attack against Mitsubushi and Japan
  • Security with corporate networks and SCADA
  • Where information security is going as an industry

Brent Huston, CEO, Founder, and Security Evangelist
Adam Hostetler, Network Engineer and Security Analyst
Phil Grimes, Security Analyst
John Davis, Risk Management Engineer
Mary Rose Maguire, Marketing Communication Specialist and moderator

Click the embedded player to listen. Or click this link to access downloads. Stay safe!