Horizon security standards review

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Horizon operates in the nuclear energy sector where safety is a critical element of operations. The energy provider recognises that the security of critical systems is a concern for its own activity, across industry, and for the UK Government. Although Horizon had embraced industry good practice to address these security concerns, much of the specific guidance at the time was still under development.

Horizon was particularly aware of the issues surrounding the UK approach to security of control and protection systems. Realising that it did not possess detailed knowledge of evolving best practice and regulatory requirements, our client wished to undertake a comprehensive review of relevant standards, guidance and approaches, as well the expectations of bodies that provided security advice.

Atkins was chosen to undertake this security standards review. Our work addressed UK best practice and other well established industry methods from around the world. Nuclear best practice was also discussed, including the US NRC 5.71 Regulatory Guide, which had already adopted international good practice, albeit through a very prescriptive implementation.

We reviewed the best practice and standards utilised for securing Industrial Control Systems (ICS) and produced a comprehensive overview, assessment and recommendations on future practice.

Our review included: The ISO/IEC 27001/27002 series:

• ISA99 – Industrial Automation and Control System Security

• IEC 62443 – Industrial Communication Networks Network and System Security

• NIST SP 800-82 Guide to Industrial Control Systems (ICS) Security

• NRC Regulatory Guide 5.71 Cyber Security Programs for Nuclear Facilities.

At the end of the comprehensive review, Atkins produced two briefing papers. The first of these covered ICS security best practice, emerging developments and a forward-looking strategy. The second paper concentrated upon nuclear safety protection systems.

The briefing papers, follow up presentations, and meetings provided Horizon with a detailed understanding of the security and safety practices which they then used to inform their strategic planning.

Key facts








UK Europe

Andrew Wall
Head of cyber security

11-12 Floors
Eagle Tower
Cheltenham GL50 1TA 
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 1242 54 6278
Email: andrew.wall@atkinsglobal.com


  • Whilst our client had their own proprietary security standard for ICS, and had taken steps to protect its systems in line with that standard, they recognised that without appropriate cross-organisation behavioural change the protection offered was limited. They therefore identified the need for a bespoke company-wide training course to address this.

    Atkins was chosen to provide this training thanks to its deep knowledge of ICS security. The package we developed included information on targeted controls and consisted of e-learning and face-to-face modules, one for each of the three identified stakeholder groups.

    Whilst the face-to-face modules cover broadly the same ground as the e-learning modules, they offer a much better opportunity to facilitate behavioural change. In particular, the final face-to-face module provides an environment where the attendees can explore the best approaches for changing attitudes towards security.

    Our work creating this training programme has resulted in a significant increase in the cyber security maturity of our client’s engineers whose work either touches on industrial control systems or requires deeper engagement with ICS and SCADA. As a result they are able to deal with vulnerabilities and mitigate risk more effectively.

    UK ,

  • Without a clear and deep understanding of their current cyber posture, the client’s leadership team were unable to identify their risk exposure or to develop an effective strategy for cyber resilience.

    Atkins were selected to perform a cyber risk assessment to identify the key challenges, threats and risks to Government-provisioned services, broader critical national infrastructure and key economic activity. The review would need to establish a realistic picture of the client’s level of resilience and their capability to respond to a serious cyber-attack.

    Working in collaboration with the client and key stakeholders, we developed a snapshot cyber threat and risk assessment. This provided a measurement of maturity assessment relating to their key assets.

    A series of sequenced and integrated work packages were also created. These focused on identifying Government and business stakeholders for engagement and reviewing existing security approaches, strategies and policies to obtain a wider national view.

    The work packages also involved collecting and analysing data on the state of the nation through events, workshops, interviews and reviews, and identifying key security threats, risks and opportunities to reduce risk and improve resilience.

    As a result of the risk assessment activity, potential threats, attack vectors and vulnerabilities were also highlighted, along with identification of what would make the client an attractive target.

    Our client’s senior stakeholders obtained a realistic view of the maturity of their cyber defence, with key areas of weakness and strength identified across Government and business sectors.

    Clear and concise prioritised expert recommendations, based on the client’s technology, people and processes, were then provided to inform their mitigation strategy and improve their cyber resilience.

    UK ,

  • The client had found it difficult, expensive and disruptive to their programme portfolio to maintain and manage a pool of experienced security consultants with the necessary analysis and security artefact-creation skills required to support the accreditation decision.

    Due to the finite resource, deciding which projects would benefit most from the IA consultants’ skills was also proving challenging. As a result, there was a risk of critical systems either remaining unaccredited or being accredited on the basis of an inadequate risk assessment.

    We worked with the client to develop a new managed service approach to the provision of security that brought together all the necessary expertise into a single team.

    Through the creation and implementation of a security catalogue, we provided key security and accreditation activities for the client. These covered business impact identification, risk assessment, threat and vulnerability analysis, and current and new service/system ‘as-is’ security reviews. Also included were estate and system architecture advice and design, policy and standards gap analyses, and accreditation and risk management.

    In addition, our (previously CLAS) accredited security consultants provided specialist security support or management to particular projects over an extended period.

    Through the implementation of managed accreditor services we coached, mentored and trained the client’s junior accreditors. This proved to increase the client’s capabilities in accreditation and developed the organisation’s information risk management maturity.

    Our managed security consultancy service provided specialist advice to the client that is now an embedded part of the enterprise architecture. Our specialist expertise was also applied to the client’s department-wide information assurance enhancement programme.

    UK ,

  • A UK critical national infrastructure energy company wished to secure its Industrial Control Systems (ICS) and SCADA from this potential threat. They particularly wished to understand which ICS information was available in the public domain that could be obtained by a potential adversary.

    Atkins was appointed to undertake an open source vulnerability assessment on behalf of the client, thanks to our deep knowledge of ICS security.

    We undertook an analytical investigation using mainstream media, blogs, social media, sector-specific journals, academic material, web 2.0 and industrial sector websites. Each threat was assessed and recommendations were proposed to both reduce the open source footprint and mitigate against the risk. Our assessment was divided into various categories, including mapping, social media, ICS, and outward-facing IT architecture.

    To illustrate the increased threat to ICS to the client, freely available tools were used to demonstrate the identification of networked control systems, their vulnerabilities and how they might be exploited.

    As a result of our assessment, our client’s new understanding of the potential threats to their ICS and adoption of our recommended mitigation measures has helped to improve security and safety for their company.

    Our vulnerability assessment ensured our client’s corporate risk assessment process was more effective and allowed them to take a more considered stance on mitigation and planning for attack.

    Our assessment also identified a number of vulnerabilities in critical systems that they were subsequently able to patch, helping to protect both revenues and shareholder returns.

    Given our client’s status as part of the nation's infrastructure, our work also contributed to reducing the risk of disruption to services across the region.

    UK ,

  • As a significant element of the IT estate was legacy, the key challenge our client faced was understanding where information assets were stored and processed. This knowledge gap meant that DWP was unable to properly quantify and understand their risk exposure to help develop effective mitigation strategies.

    DWP therefore approached Atkins to perform a threat and risk assessment of their IT estate, specifically looking at key information assets and how they were stored, accessed, transmitted and processed.

    Atkins worked closely with DWP across a four month programme to provide a snapshot threat, security risk, and maturity assessment of key information assets across the IT estate.

    We identified IT and business stakeholders for engagement and reviewed DWP security approaches, policies, procedures and IT architecture to obtain the wider IT estate view.

    Quantitative and qualitative data was also collected on the shape of the IT estate through documentation reviews, workshops and interviews. This was then employed to identify the flow of data, potential threats and vulnerabilities.

    Finally, we identified key security risks and opportunities to reduce and mitigate these. We then developed strategic recommendations for the ownership and management of key information assets.

    As a result of this work, senior stakeholders obtained a quantified view of information asset risk across the DWP IT estate.

    Our threat assessment recognised what would make DWP an attractive target, as well as highlighting the key threat actors and the likely attack vectors.

    Clear and concise prioritised expert guidance was also provided relating to information asset risk mitigation activities. This informed the creation of an IT estate risk mitigation strategy to determine which actions needed to be taken to reduce the level of risk based on the organisation's risk appetite.

    UK ,

  • HE partnered with their Netherlands equivalent, Rijkswaterstaat (RWS), to help overcome their legacy system drawbacks. Both wished to develop a future operating model that delivered a modern and open technology platform and effective supply chain that would improve the resilience and efficiency of their road networks.

    Atkins were tasked with developing the security requirements for the Advanced Traffic Management System (ATMS) operating model, and supporting its delivery through an open tender process to enable appropriate suppliers to provide the new solution.

    We worked in collaboration with HE and RWS, integrating our subject matter experts into the project team. This allowed us to agree a joint security approach which would took into account the different cultural, business, security and legislative concerns that the two partners faced.

    By working closely with all stakeholders, we determined the existing operational structures, business goals and service requirements. We reviewed UK and Dutch security standards and Governmental requirements and negotiated a joint approach to meet these.

    Finally, we developed a ‘to-be’ security operating model to meet business requirements for input into ‘Pre-qualification questionnaire’ (PQQ) and ‘Invitation to tender’ (ITT) contract phases and proposed and agreed approaches for the formal accreditation of ATMS.

    Our security-focused business systems analysis and requirements development led to a detailed set of building block deliverables at functional and technical levels. These included the specific application, infrastructure, hosting and platform components.

    The completion of this project provided HE and RWS with a pragmatic and realistic view of the threat environment for information assets with a consistent, security framework clearly linked to the HE and RWS business drivers. This would be essential to inform the partners’ security activity and maximise any return on investment.

    Ultimately, Highways England benefited from the delivery of an accreditable solution that aligns with UK Government best practice, as well as Highways

    UK ,

  • The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) wished to commission collaborative research for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) into the relationship between people and cyber/ information assurance. Particular focus was required on the human and cultural issues relevant to risk and friction points associated with the design of policy and procedure.

    Atkins collaborated with University College London (UCL), bringing together industry, commercial and academic expertise to undertake this research.

    A set of customised assessments were developed to be undertaken by MOD staff using a specialised tool. This helped to identify an individual’s security understanding within their working environment, to highlight skills and knowledge gaps and focus on behaviours that may pose a risk to security compliance.

    Through this research it was identified that current security practice reduces productivity by introducing rules that often create a conflict with the individual’s primary task and are consequently circumvented.

    The work conducted represented new and innovative thinking leading to a number of achievable recommendations across the MOD. These would ultimately lead to a new paradigm in the way systems, policies and procedures were developed and implemented.

    Research outcomes of the identification of friction, and understanding of what is causing it, can also form the basis for a potentially lower friction solution that operators can comply with.

    UK ,

  • As part of its focus on continually improving its people, processes and information, EDF recognised the need to gain a better understanding of its staff’s security awareness and training needs so that a specific programme could be developed to meet their continual learning requirement in this area.

    Atkins worked closely with the client for over three years providing professional advice, analysis and solutions through the full lifecycle of organisational learning and development. This work included development of better learning and development solutions for a range of requirements, such as:

    • Support for the design and implementation of a structured training programme for the internal regulation department of around 60 people

    • Design and support of training-related management information and reporting

    • Design and implementation of a major e-learning PC-based training package on Basic Nuclear Principles Refreshment to be used by over 400 people on a cyclical basis

    • Participation in key self-assessments relating to organisational learning and development improvements that will support the re-accreditation of the Engineering Support training programme against industry standards.

    These support services were key to EDF achieving training standards accreditation for one of the largest single training programmes in the world. This has in turn provided credibility for lifetime extension programmes for the company’s existing nuclear fleet and new build programmes.

    Our support has meant that EDF can clearly demonstrate that they have control of their nuclear resources in a measurable and systematic programme which has a clear view of the challenges in addressing an aging demographic and a finite industry resource market.

    UK ,