Industrial cybersecurity has become a top priority. Cyber threats are evolving in today’s digital landscape. Recent statistics paint a concerning picture. The cost of cybercrime is predicted to reach $8 trillion in 2023. Furthermore, it is projected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2025.
As attacks are on the rise, implementing cybersecurity measures is no longer optional. It is a necessity for critical infrastructure organizations. This article is an overview of the best practices industrial facilities can use. It will help to boost their cybersecurity and protect their most critical assets.
The Growing Threat Landscape
Over the past years, threats targeting industrial control systems (ICS) skyrocketed. Operational technology (OT) has also been receiving threats. It more than tripled in 2020 alone.
Manufacturing is the second most targeted sector for cyberattacks after finance, accounting for nearly a quarter of all reported incidents. The emerging digital world has made every company a potential target. It doesn’t matter how big their size or resources are. Malicious threat actors are continuously looking for new vulnerabilities to exploit. During the past 12 months, many executives reported being targeted by hackers. They were after the financial data of different companies.
With cyber risks on the rise, industrial facilities can no longer neglect cybersecurity. Proactive measures are needed to safeguard critical infrastructure. For U.S. companies in the energy industry, compliance with NERC CIP standards is mandatory. These NERC CIPs standards enforce reliability for bulk electric systems.
Conduct Regular Risk Assessments
The initial step in enhancing security is gaining visibility into potential vulnerabilities. Comprehensive cyber risk assessments allow organizations to do the following:
- Identify their most critical assets
- Evaluate threats
- Determine risk tolerance levels.
Identify Critical Assets
- Catalog all ICS components, including:
- Networks and more
- Map out interconnections between all systems and dependencies.
- Classify systems based on criticality and focus on the highest-risk assets.
- Maintain a continuously updated inventory of assets to track security gaps.
Evaluate Threats and Vulnerabilities
- Research the latest threat intelligence. Companies can do so by accessing resources like ICS-CERT. They can also use it to identify emerging cyber risks and enhance privacy security.
- Conduct vulnerability scans and penetration testing to reveal technical weaknesses.
- Analyze probable attack vectors based on accessible vulnerabilities.
- Model potential business impacts from various attack scenarios.
- Rank threats based on the criticality of vulnerable assets.
Determine Risk Tolerance
Define maximum acceptable downtime for prioritized assets. That is before operational safety or financial impacts occur.
- Establish the following with risk tolerance:
- Recovery time objectives (RTOs)
- Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs)
- Evaluate the costs of cyber incidents against the expenses of implementing countermeasures, and employing data-driven risk assessments.
- Develop a cyber risk management strategy. It should be focused on protecting only what is essential when alternatives exist.
Frequent risk reviews enable organizations to protect their most vital assets and processes. They can direct security investments to do so in a cost-effective manner.
Implement Strict Access Controls
Limiting access to ICS is key for security. Robust identity and access management controls can significantly reduce the attack surface. Specific actions include:
- Restricting access: Provide access to ICS and OT systems only to personnel who need it. For example, it can be employees who will perform their work duties. Reduce risks of unauthorized access.
- Using multi-factor authentication (MFA): Require a second form of authentication for system access. Biometrics or a security code are good examples. MFA prevents compromised credentials from turning into breaches.
- Monitoring access logs: Logs allow activity monitoring and quicker response. This is in case of suspicious access attempts. Review regularly for signs of unauthorized access.
Promote a Security-First Culture
With growing cyber risks, employees represent an organization’s last line of defense. A strong security culture is vital for reducing the risk of human error. Key steps include the following:
- Prioritizing security at all levels: Ensure security permeates every aspect of operations. Be it from C-suite directives to factory floor procedures.
- Providing ongoing training: Conduct cybersecurity training during onboarding and through regular refreshers. Ensure employees at all levels understand the latest policies and threats.
- Simulating real attacks: Test defenses and preparedness through:
- Controlled phishing campaigns
- Social engineering simulations
Identify vulnerabilities and strengthen response plans.
Adopting Cybersecurity Frameworks
Regulations aimed at critical infrastructure sectors are emerging worldwide. For U.S. companies supporting DoD contracts, the CMMC introduces cyber requirements. DoD stands for Department of Defense. CMMC refers to Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification.
Other frameworks like NIST or ISO 27001 provide cybersecurity standards. They also give the best practice recommendations applicable across sectors.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the difference between IT and OT security?
IT security focuses on protecting data and digital assets like servers and computers. OT security specifically addresses threats to industrial control systems and processes. Securing OT environments requires specialized strategies. That’s how they maintain the availability and reliability of physical processes.
How can I ensure we are compliant with cybersecurity regulations?
Stay updated on industry-specific regulations and certifications. For DoD contractors, attaining CMMC certification will be essential for maintaining contracts. Work with experienced consultants to evaluate and implement required security controls.
What are the biggest threats to critical infrastructure?
ICS faces a variety of cyber risks including but not limited to:
- DDoS attacks
- Insider threats
Build resilience against known tactics through the following:
- Employee training
- Network segmentation
- Multi-factor authentication
- Rigorous access controls
Actively monitor for new and emerging threats.
Cyber risks will only intensify. Attacks continue expanding with technological integration and connectivity. Industrial facilities can no longer neglect cybersecurity with the growing threat at bay. That is if they aim to uphold the reliability and safety of operations.
Attacks cannot be fully prevented. But organizations can substantially reduce risks through steps like:
- Risk assessments
- Access controls
- Awareness training
- Framework Adoption
Building a robust cybersecurity program requires the commitment of resources and effort. But pays long-term dividends in protecting the continuity of essential services and infrastructure. Proactive planning and investment in defenses now is key. Industrial organizations can safeguard their most critical assets. And it allows them to build resilience for the future.
Call to Action
To learn more about securing industrial control systems, contact our team of OT cybersecurity experts today.
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