Data security

How to Conduct a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment for Industrial Control Systems

Industrial control systems are among the most important in organizations. These are the information systems used to ensure different processes flow smoothly in an organization. It can be easy to control things like production, product handling, and distribution with ICS.

However, there is a need to conduct risk assessments on ICS systems. They can develop vulnerabilities that could put your business at massive risk if poorly managed. This article will explore how you can conduct risk assessments on these systems to get good results.

Why Is Cybersecurity Risk Assessment Vital?

Various things make the ICS cybersecurity risk assessment worthwhile. Remember, industrial control systems have many roles to play in a business. They touch on almost every aspect of a business. This is one of the reasons why ICS cybersecurity should be a top priority.

If the assessment isn’t well done, there will be a risk of leaving huge security gaps. Hackers can then use these loopholes to compromise your security. They can start by affecting low-value areas of your business. If you don’t notice it, they will compromise high-value areas.

The good thing about risk assessments is that they keep you updated. Through these assessments, you can know the kind of threats your industrial OT faces. Then, you can decide on the OT security solutions that will best fit your needs and provide protection.

You can consider hiring industrial control systems experts to help in this journey. These are experts who know what exactly is required to protect these systems. They can identify the areas that are vulnerable on your network and then help you find ways of securing them.

If you don’t plan to hire an expert to help in this journey, then you are probably doing it by yourself. The best thing to do is ensure you know the steps to take when looking to conduct risk assessments. The rest of this post will look at how you can conduct these assessments.

Ways to Conduct Risk Assessments for ICS

You need to keep in mind that the results of your risk assessment depend on various factors. One of the most important factors is the process followed while conducting the assessment. This section looks at the various steps that you can take when doing this.

Let’s see them in detail.

● Determine What Your Target Is

This should be the first step of the process when looking to conduct a risk assessment. You need to know the targets because ICSs aren’t like physical systems. They work differently, and there are many protocols and vendors. This makes it vital to know what you’re targeting.

You might also decide to target a specific industry, for instance, the oil mining industry. Or, you can focus on particular protocols and programmable logic controllers. Next is to research how some protocols get used in the industry that you have chosen to target in this process.

● Go Through The Documentation.

An in-depth study of the target file is essential to the risk assessment process. You need to use the documentation issued by manufacturers to understand the target file. Developers and clients get documents that indicate how a system works and a lot of other information.

You can use the information in this documentation to find vulnerabilities. The online user manuals provided by manufacturers can make it easy to know about these vulnerabilities. You can then take the right steps to ensure these vulnerabilities do not affect your business.

● Identify The Interfaces

Every system used these days has at least one interface. This is especially because they need to handle tasks like communication and systems management. You need to identify such interfaces and list them to know which one is worth prioritizing in risk assessments.

The interfaces come in different formats as long as they allow communication into the systems. They can be a socket, sensor, USB port, etc. However, it is worth noting that TCP sockets are the most popular in ICS systems, so consider adding them to your network.

● Analyze And Test Interfaces

It will be a good idea also to analyze and test interfaces. Assessing system risks is a key step in the risk assessment process. Also, it is the most vital step in ensuring cybersecurity for industrial control systems. However, this phase can be daunting and requires skills.

There are three main methods that you can use to analyze and test interfaces. They include fuzz testing, static binary analysis, and dynamic binary analysis. You can easily find defects in the systems if you use any of these methods. But then, you should use them correctly.

● Assess The Results

You cannot forget to assess the results from the previous step. The analysis and testing done on interfaces will bring certain results that should guide your next steps. By the end of the assessment, you will have at least discovered one vulnerability in the system.

The next step should be to ensure that you take control of the systems. You can easily do this if you can access the hard-coded passwords used in these systems. The next step is to develop suggestions that will help improve industrial cybersecurity.

● Provide Remediation Suggestions.

Something else you must do is ensure that you provide remediation suggestions. These are the suggestions that will eventually help you improve your OT cybersecurity. You can give suggestions on aspects such as code, network, and business levels and then effect changes.


This article has explored all you need to know about cybersecurity risk assessment. It can be tricky to get the results you desire if you don’t do your risk assessment right. The insights we have shared in this post can be worth implementing if you want to assess risks.

Follow all the steps we have shared in this post. If you have challenges with this assessment, you can consider outsourcing. There are many companies that provide ICS protective services. You can choose one and then get started with doing risk assessments.

If you have any questions, please ask below!