OPC UA minimizes the loss of Availability caused by Message flooding by minimizing the amount of processing done with a Message before the Message is authenticated. This prevents an attacker from leveraging a small amount of effort to cause the legitimate OPC UA Application to spend a large amount of time responding, thus taking away processing resources from legitimate activities.
GetEndpoints (specified in OPC 10000-4) and OpenSecureChannel (specified in OPC 10000-4) are the only services that the Server handles before the Client is authenticated. The response to GetEndpoints is only a set of static information so the Server does not need to do much processing. The response to OpenSecureChannel consumes significant Server resources because of the signature and encryption processing. OPC UA has minimized this processing, but it cannot be eliminated.
The Server implementation could protect itself from floods of OpenSecureChannel Messages in two ways.
First, the Server could intentionally delay its processing of OpenSecureChannel requests once it receives more than some minimum number of bad OpenSecureChannel requests. It should also issue an alarm to alert plant personnel that an attack is underway that could be blocking new legitimate OpenSecureChannel calls.
Second, when an OpenSecureChannel request attempts to exceed the Server’s specified maximum number of concurrent channels the Server replies with an error response without performing the signature and encryption processing. Certified OPC UA Servers are required to specify their maximum number of concurrent channels in their product documentation as specified in OPC 10000-7.
OPC UA user and Client Authentication reduce the risk of a legitimate Client being used to mount a flooding attack. See the reconciliation of Authentication in 5.2.3.
The Client protects itself from floods by have a max message size limit, automatically closing connection where the limit is exceeded. The Clients also ignore extra responses that might be received and closes the connection.
In PubSub, the Subscriber filters messages that it processes based on header information, allowing it to quickly discard any messages that do not conform to its required filter. In addition, the message signature is checked to eliminate any message that is well formed, but not from the desired SecurityGroup. PubSub can also be configured for unicast instead of multicast, which allows the network infrastructure to block multicast flooding attacks.
OPC UA Auditing functionality provides the site with evidence that can help the site discover that flooding attacks are being mounted and find ways to prevent similar future attacks (see 4.14). As a best practice, Audit Events should be monitored for excessive connection requests.
OPC UA relies upon the site CSMS to prevent attacks such as Message flooding at protocol layers and systems that support OPC UA.