Security challenges forces new thinking in safety-critical systems

Support systems for railways, fire detector or the power grid – common for these and  other important systems is the there is a danger for loss of life, environmental damage or material damage if something wrong happens. When a system is assessed (e.g. according to a standard like IEC 61508) it can be deployed as long as security issues (protecting the system from illegal influence and modifications) are addressed. This is usually done by air gap, encryption or access control.

The trend within system design has during the last years been a transition from heavy and specialized hardware solutions to running commercial-off-the-shelf hardware with complex software on top. This trend can also be seen within safety-critical systems. We also see a trend towards substituting physical separation of safety-critical systems with logical separation, for example via software like VPN. Protocols like these are regularly broken, causing entry points for sabotage. The gap between safety systems and possible intruders is gradually washed away, and no-one has a defined responsibility for maintaining safety-critical systems through security issues.

Børge Haugset will, as part of the CYBER SECURITY 2016 conference in Oslo, present some of the challenges that lie ahead of modern safety-critical systems development.