Critical infrastructures and associated real time Informational systems need some security protection mechanisms that will be able to detect and respond to possible attacks. For this reason, Anomaly Detection Systems (ADS), as part of a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) system, are needed for constantly monitoring and identifying potential threats inside an Information Technology (IT) system. Typically, ADS collect information from various sources within a CI system using security sensors or agents and correlate that information so as to identify anomaly events. Such sensors though in a CI setting (factories, power plants, remote locations) may be placed in open areas and left unattended, thus becoming targets themselves of security attacks. They can be tampering and malicious manipulated so that they provide false data that may lead an ADS or SIEM system to falsely comprehend the CI current security status. In this paper, we describe existing approaches on security monitoring in critical infrastructures and focus on how to collect security sensor–agent information in a secure and trusted way. We then introduce the concept of hardware assisted security sensor information collection that improves the level of trust (by hardware means) and also increases the responsiveness of the sensor. Thus, we propose a Hardware Security Token (HST) that when connected to a CI host, it acts as a secure anchor for security agent information collection. We describe the HST functionality, its association with a host device, its expected role and its log monitoring mechanism. We also provide information on how security can be established between the host device and the HST. Then, we introduce and describe the necessary host components that need to be established in order to guarantee a high security level and correct HST functionality. We also provide a realization–implementation of the HST overall concept in a FPGA SoC evaluation board and describe how the HST implementation can be controlled. In addition, in the paper, two case studies where the HST has been used in practice and its functionality have been validated (one case study on a real critical infrastructure test site and another where a critical industrial infrastructure was emulated in our lab) are described. Finally, results taken from these two case studies are presented, showing actual measurements for the in-field HST usage.
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