Critical infrastructure businesses have battled attackers who tried to shut down networks, delete files and attempted to “manipulate” equipment through a control system.
According to a survey of 575 critical infrastructure organisations throughout North and South America by the Organization of American States, found that 40 per cent of respondents had battled attempts to shut down their computer networks, 44 per cent had dealt with bids to delete files and 54 per cent had encountered “attempts to manipulate” their equipment through a control system. Also, 60 per cent said that they had detected attempts to steal data.
The survey went to companies and agencies in crucial sectors as defined by the OAS members. Almost a third of the respondents were public entities, with communications, security and finance being the most heavily represented industries.
Sy Lee, spokesman for the US Department of Homeland Security, told Reuters that the department did not keep statistics on how often critical US institutions are attacked, or see destructive software and would not “speculate” on whether four out of ten seeing deletion attempts would be alarming.
Chris McIntosh, CEO of ViaSat UK, said that the research contains harsh lessons for our own critical infrastructure, as the main attraction of Critical National Infrastructure will always be the opportunity to cause damage; whether from nations or other actors looking to damage their rivals, or criminals essentially holding services to ransom.
He said: “Ironically, modernising critical infrastructure networks has made them more vulnerable. While previously attacking national energy or resource infrastructure would have involved compromising dedicated communication networks, modern networks are both part of the internet and include more direct connections with end users, making them more vulnerable than ever.”
He encouraged critical infrastructure companies to review their entire IT systems from top to bottom to ensure there are no unprotected points of entry for potential attackers and that all points of access are secured. “Organisations need to work on the assumption that they have already been compromised and work backwards on this basis; only then can they trust that the network is secure and behaving as it should be,” he said.