A Comprehensive Security Analysis of a SCADA Protocol: from OSINT to Mitigation



It is an established fact that the security of Industrial Automation and Control Systems (IACS) strongly depends on the robustness of the underlying SCADA network protocols (amongst other factors). This becomes especially evident when considering the extent to which certain protocols, designed with poor or nonexistent security mechanisms, have led to a considerable number of past incident reports affecting Critical Infrastructures and Essential Services. Considering the current situation, it is rather obvious why the proper auditing and analysis of SCADA protocols is considered key when it comes to design and/or protect IACS infrastructures. But while the security of some protocols such as Modbus or DNP3 has already been extensively analysed, the same cannot be said for other protocols and technologies being used in the same domain, that have not received the same amount of attention. In this paper we provide a comprehensive security analysis of the PCOM SCADA protocol, including a dissection of PCOM, a demonstration of several attacks scenarios on PCOM-based systems, and also an analysis of possible mitigation strategies against these potential attacks. Moreover, this paper also describes a number of open-source tools we developed for further analysis and research of PCOM security aspects, including a PCOM Wireshark dissector, a Nmap NSE PCOM scan, multiple Metasploit PCOM modules, a set of Snort PCOM rules, and several network traffic datasets containing multiple samples of different types of PCOM operations.


SCADA , Security , PCOM , ICS , IACS

Related Project

H2020 ATENA (Advanced Tools to assEss and mitigate the criticality of ICT compoNents and their dependencies over Critical InfrAstructures)


IEEE Access (Open Access), March 2019


Cited by

Year 2020 : 1 citations

 D. Pliatsios, P. Sarigiannidis, T. Lagkas and A. G. Sarigiannidis, "A Survey on SCADA Systems: Secure Protocols, Incidents, Threats and Tactics," in IEEE Communications Surveys & Tutorials. April 2020. DOI: 10.1109/COMST.2020.2987688

Year 2019 : 3 citations

 Aghenta, L.O.; Iqbal, M.T. "Low-Cost, Open Source IoT-Based SCADA System Design Using Thinger.IO and ESP32 Thing" Electronics 2019, 8, 822. DOI: 10.3390/electronics8080822

 Tidrea, A.; Korodi, A.; Silea, I. Cryptographic Considerations for Automation and SCADA Systems Using Trusted Platform Modules. MDPI Sensors 2019, 19, 4191. DOI: 10.3390/s19194191

 Anass Sebbar, Karim Zkik, Mohammed Boulmalf, Mohamed Dafir Ech-Cherif El Kettani, New context-based node acceptance CBNA framework for MitM detection in SDN Architecture, Procedia Computer Science, Volume 160, 2019, Pages 825-830, ISSN 1877-0509, DOI: 10.1016/j.procs.2019.11.004