Could the rigorous use of air gaps have prevented all those attacks from succeeding? Not necessarily. Evgeny Gervis, managing consultant with Synopsys, notes that an air gap “is just one perimeter control. At the end of the day, the OT has to be secure. One cannot rely on air gapping to compensate for broken security in the OT environment.”
And Adam Brown, associate managing consultant at Synopsys, said that the reality of the impending “smart shipping” environment will soon mean that much of the time, air gapping won’t be feasible anyway.
“Smart ports using smart contracts for delivery simply won’t be able operate within an air gap,” he said. “In those cases very careful attention must be given to the security of the software running that technology.”
That is still in the future. “For now we do still rely on ship load plans and cargo information being transferred manually by USB—so there is still an air gap,” he said. “But there is no message integrity checking, so that vulnerability can still be exploited through malware or phishing.”
He also noted that air gaps can’t protect against “an ill-informed person’s actions,” as was the case with the notorious 2010 Stuxnet attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. In that attack, the malware was delivered physically, via a thumb drive.