Next-Generation Industrial Control System (ICS) Security : Towards ICS Honeypots for Defence-in-Depth Security

Maesschalck, Sam and Giotsas, Vasileios and Race, Nicholas (2023) Next-Generation Industrial Control System (ICS) Security : Towards ICS Honeypots for Defence-in-Depth Security. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

[thumbnail of 2023maesschalckphd]
Text (2023maesschalckphd)
2023maesschalckphd.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (3MB)


The advent of Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing has led to an increased convergence of traditional manufacturing and production technologies with IP communications. Legacy Industrial Control System (ICS) devices are now exposed to a wide range of previously unconsidered threats, which must be considered to ensure the safe operation of industrial processes. Especially as cyberspace is presenting itself as a popular domain for nation-state operations, including against critical infrastructure. Honeypots are a well-known concept within traditional IT security, and they can enable a more proactive approach to security, unlike traditional systems. More work needs to be done to understand their usefulness within OT and critical infrastructure. This thesis advances beyond current honeypot implementations and furthers the current state-of-the-art by delivering novel ways of deploying ICS honeypots and delivering concrete answers to key research questions within the area. This is done by answering the question previously raised from a multitude of perspectives. We discuss relevant legislation, such as the UK Cyber Assessment Framework, the US NIST Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, and associated industry-based standards and guidelines supporting operator compliance. Standards and guidance are used to frame a discussion on our survey of existing ICS honeypot implementations in the literature and their role in supporting regulatory objectives. However, these deployments are not always correctly configured and might differ from a real ICS. Based on these insights, we propose a novel framework towards the classification and implementation of ICS honeypots. This is underpinned by a study into the passive identification of ICS honeypots using Internet scanner data to identify honeypot characteristics. We also present how honeypots can be leveraged to identify when bespoke ICS vulnerabilities are exploited within the organisational network—further strengthening the case for honeypot usage within critical infrastructure environments. Additionally, we demonstrate a fundamentally different approach to the deployment of honeypots. By deploying it as a deterrent, to reduce the likelihood that an adversary interacts with a real system. This is important as skilled attackers are now adept at fingerprinting and avoiding honeypots. The results presented in this thesis demonstrate that honeypots can provide several benefits to the cyber security of and alignment to regulations within the critical infrastructure environment.

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Research Output Funding/yes_externally_funded
?? yes - externally funded ??
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
29 Aug 2023 16:10
Last Modified:
29 Jun 2024 01:14