Is your critical infrastructure at risk of a cyber attack?

Author: Sunil Sharma
electric power grid

At a glance

Society is built on critical infrastructure – physical and virtual – which, in a highly connected world, is vulnerable to cyber threats. The constant cyber breach stories making headlines worldwide prompt a wake-up call.
Society is built on critical infrastructure – physical and virtual – which, in a highly connected world, is vulnerable to cyber threats. The constant cyber breach stories making headlines worldwide prompt a wake-up call.

When set in motion, cyber attacks can quickly escalate to dire scenarios: compromised national security, disrupted power grids, communication networks, manufacturing, water, wastewater, and transportation systems.

Through numerous infiltration points, malicious actors can exploit software and hardware that control systems and processes. They can also steal sensitive data and extract multimillion-dollar ransoms.

Simply put, critical infrastructure organisations are prime targets. What can you do today? Take a proactive approach to cybersecurity and drive awareness and action across the organisation.

What makes critical infrastructure vulnerable?

The increasing power of computing and the decreasing size and cost of technology has led to the blurring of the physical and digital worlds.

In addition, convergence of IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operational Technology) makes critical infrastructure vulnerable to cyber threats.

Specifically, as organisations increase the use of internet of things (IoT) devices to collect and transmit data, there is an expanding risk that this data could be used to identify individuals or organisations.

Weak links also emerge when infrastructure is sourced from multiple suppliers and when consultants provide design services without a cohesive security strategy. With the volume of complex dependencies involved, gaps in visibility and control will undermine security and make it harder to detect malicious activities.

Whilst IT systems are refreshed in relatively shorter lifecycle spans, OT systems have a longer and less flexible asset lifecycle. This results in OT systems plagued with legacy systems that may be out of support and more vulnerable to cyber attacks. Any interruption to OT processes and systems can potentially result in loss of revenue, stakeholder trust and services essential to communities.

The response is clear: heightened cybersecurity measures are not an add-on; they are fundamental and require an ongoing process of managing systems and processes.

What can you do to prevent cyber threats? Here are some pointers for an integrated approach.

Cultivate a cybersecurity culture with senior leadership buy-in and ownership: Boards and executive leaders set the direction of investment decisions and are best positioned to embed security throughout the company’s culture – from enabling cybersecurity awareness as part of employee conversations to ensuring that it is prioritised in strategic planning and operations.

Foster industry and government collaboration: Raising a digital ecosystem’s collective defence requires a partnership between the public and private sectors. This creates an environment conducive to sharing best practices and enhancing industry standards for more efficient risk mitigation and threat response.

Understand assets and their criticality: With a good understanding of assets and the technology that supports them, organisations are better equipped to assess their vulnerabilities and trace possible risk sources. Take inventory and assess which critical infrastructure emerges as a weak link and, therefore, needs immediate action.

Establish a risk-based cybersecurity strategy: Let the picture of potential risks, likelihood and severity guide the overall strategy – including resources and controls – tailored to your unique operating environment to improve cyber resilience. Continuously monitor these safeguards and their ability to respond to evolving risks.

Put security-by-design into practice: Take a proactive stance and ensure that the security of systems and their components are prioritised, right from conception. This enables optimal defence from the onset instead of being bolted on at a later stage of the lifecycle.

Contact us to learn how GHD Digital can help you safeguard your critical infrastructure.