Leipzig, Germany. Rohde & Schwarz Cybersecurity today announced the availability of new Modbus protocol detection and extraction capabilities provided by the R&S PACE 2 deep packet inspection (DPI) engine. The DPI engine delivers Modbus content and metadata extraction and enables IT security equipment vendors to gain full visibility of Modbus protocol communication in order to detect vulnerabilities and provide protection for the Industrial IoT.

The company said SCADA, CIS, ICS, and similar Modbus-protocol communication-based industrial systems are becoming vulnerable due to their increasing connection to the Internet. The protocol lacks built-in security measures, which makes it easy for cybercriminals to exploit industrial systems and networks and take full control of critical infrastructure. The new capabilities from Rohde & Schwarz Cybersecurity now provide a critical IT security solution for secure Modbus protocol communication that protects the IIoT against cyberattacks and espionage.

Modbus is an application-layer protocol that provides a client/server communication between devices connected on different types of buses or networks. For instance, supervisory control and data acquisition systems or industrial control systems measure temperature and humidity and communicate the results to a computer with the help of Modbus protocol.

Because Modbus-based industrial systems were designed for isolated environments, their development centers on reliability, availability, and speed—not security. Therefore, the Modbus protocol is lacking common security mechanisms such as authentication, confidentiality, and integrity. This makes it inherently insecure and vulnerable to attacks.

Today’s modern conveniences such as electricity, transportation, and water systems are powered by SCADA, CIS, or ICS. This means that the weakness of Modbus protocol communication must be addressed. An attack on such systems and networks not only has the potential to shut down an entire region’s power grid and disrupt critical systems and production lines, but also can cost lives.

With the new Modbus content and metadata extraction functionality, vendors of security products, such as firewalls or gateways, gain granular visibility and control of the Modbus protocol communication. This enables them to detect threats in the SCADA or ICS environment and enhance their IT security solutions by adding a further layer of security in their products.

“Firewall vendors can embed the deep packet inspection engine in their protection products to inspect the content contained in the industrial protocol communication,” said Dirk Czepluch, VP of the business units Network Analytics and Network Protection at Rohde & Schwarz Cybersecurity. “The Modbus content and metadata extraction functionality enables them to apply more detailed rules, filters on individual fields and values that matter to IT administrators using such firewalls,” adds Czepluch. “They can now control who can communicate with the device, what communication is allowed and provide protection against malicious commands.”

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Rohde & Schwarz Cybersecurity offers IIoT security for Modbus
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Rick Nelson
Rick became Executive Editor for EE in 2011. Previously he served on several publications, including EDN and Vision Systems Design, and has received awards for signed editorials from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He began as a design engineer at General Electric and Litton Industries and earned a BSEE degree from Penn State.

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