By Chris Sherry, Regional Director, UKI and Northern Europe at ForeScout
It doesn’t matter what industry organisations work within, cyber security has never been higher on their agenda. According to research from Beaming, UK businesses are attacked every 2.5 minutes, equalling 52,596 attacks every single quarter.
This barrage of attack is unparalleled and rightly strikes fear into the heart of business owners up and down the country.
But, what if bad actors become less concerned about attacking these companies for private gain and, instead, want to add another string to their bow: national sabotage?
Like most developed nations, the UK relies heavily on its infrastructure. From electricity to gas and water to transportation. If only one of these were to be severed or paralysed, the UK would struggle to right the wrongs of a direct and deliberate attack, which would leave millions of citizens without critical services.
But, it’s O.K. because an attack of this nature could never happen, could it?
The Threat is Real
Like any organisations that has taken advantage of the digital revolution, the companies that make up the infrastructure industry have implemented new technologies that help them run effectively and efficiently. However, that is not all the technological revolution has done. In some cases, it has also created backdoors that make companies ill-prepared and vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
And with these organisations evermore looking to digitise their estate, protecting the sector from cyber attacks is becoming the defining challenge of our time. The challenge is further heightened as organisations look to cut costs and automate processes even more where possible.
At the start of 2017 the Ukraine suffered at the hands of bad actors with a power cut to half of Kiev. While the power was only out for an hour, it is a clear indication that nefarious characters are not scared of disrupting cities in their pursuit of personal gain and damage.
With such attacks in the minds of executives here in the UK it is no wonder Network Rail and Water UK have both told New Civil Engineer that they have robust security plans in place to defend against such attacks.
This comes after GCHQ and the FBI have warned that the Kremlin is preparing to mount cyber-attacks on Britain’s ‘critical infrastructure.’
It is no wonder then why the NIS Directive was brought into legislation in May with the primary goal of securing all OT and critical national infrastructure through legal measures to boost security. Its introduction acknowledges that cyber weaknesses exist, especially within legacy environments. It is hoped that the legal measures will add extra incentive to keep infrastructures safe. After all, as technology gets propagated further, the lines between IT and OT environments cross and this is where weaknesses appear – leaving doors open for bad actors.
Staying on Top of Connected Devices
One of the easiest ways for bad actors to enter an organisation’s network is through a connected device. However, to keep bad actors at bay, organisations must start by incorporating detection and prevention measures throughout their infrastructures. This will give them a better understanding of what assets they have in their production environments and which of those have computing capability and which can connect to the Internet.
This will be integral as it will help identify which devices open these holes that bad actors can gain entry through. This of course will be challenging considering the multitude of different tools used to manage anything from laptops or connected equipment across the infrastructure.
But, with an automated solution that can not only scan the entire infrastructure for devices and alert when an unknown device enters the environment but also shut off all of its privileges when necessary, organisations can feel confident that they are safe.
After all, bad actors need only breach one vulnerability to then infiltrate other systems. Once one system has been breached, the attack spreads alarmingly and often in an unconstrained manner. A rogue unchecked mobile device could be that device. In a nutshell: visibility is key to fend off bad actors targeting critical infrastructure.
The Future is Secure
An attack on our national infrastructure is an event so dreaded that it could send us back to the dark ages. With electricity powering everything from lighting to iPhones and our gas supply critical to the heating of millions of homes throughout the isles, the implications of an attack are simply unimaginable.
However, this does not need to be the future we come to know.
Critical national infrastructure organisations must ensure that they have a single pane of glass view across their entire infrastructure and are able to identify, within moments whether a rogue device has joined a network. With this capability they will be able to detect bad actors, internal or external, act as necessary and keep their infrastructure secure.
This will ensure that we don’t ever have to live in some dystopian, unpleasant future worried about the next attack on our energy infrastructure.