Five Hard Truths About Critical Infrastructure Protection

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Dealing with cyber attacks and APTs continued

This blind spot makes it difficult for providers to become more proactive and informed in applying cybersecurity best practices. "Until critical infrastructure organizations see themselves as probable targets and gain an understanding of the threat actor capability to penetrate, avoid detection, and maintain a presence on their networks, they will not make the necessary investments in cybersecurity," the ICS-CERT report concluded.

Fortunately, the critical infrastructure and IT communities as a whole have taken numerous steps to improve training and education about cybersecurity. ISA has created ISA99, its Industrial Automation and Control System Security Committee, which is developing a series of American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. Additionally, many colleges, universities and professional organizations and conferences have created training programs and certifications. These options and others offer critical infrastructure providers the chance to educate employees and enable them to pick the right partners, processes and technology for their particular needs.

Once considered the unthinkable, real-life cyber attacks on critical infrastructure have taken center stage in the past three years. Advancing technologies, evolving cyber threats and a little piece of malware called Stuxnet have catapulted cybersecurity of real-world infrastructure from an academic backwater to a top government and industry priority. From power plants to water treatment sites to traffic control systems, critical infrastructure once thought invulnerable to targeted cyber attacks now lies squarely in the crosshairs.

Over the past two decades, asset owners and operators have added IT systems to help improve management of the ubiquitous industrial control systems (ICS) that perform essential mechanical functions of all kinds. These systems have led to improved service, lower costs and technological marvels such as smart grids. Unfortunately, they have also exposed critical infrastructure to software vulnerabilities that adversaries can exploit through malware and advanced persistent threats (APTs).

Critical infrastructure providers now find themselves in a harrowing position: They must protect both physical and digital assets, but often know less than their adversaries do about those assets' vulnerabilities and how to remediate them. The complexity of IT-enabled critical infrastructure has multiplied the difficulty of protecting it, as have the skyrocketing frequency, sophistication and severity of cyber attacks over the past ten years. Consequences for failure can be catastrophic, but finding the right resources to improve protection can be challenging and expensive – making the decision to invest in security a painful business dilemma.

To protect themselves and their stakeholders from escalating cyber threats, critical infrastructure owners must first acknowledge five hard truths, according to Raju Dodhiawala, vice president and general manager at ManTech.


Related Topics : Unisys, Stimulus Package, Security Breaches, Symantec, Electronic Surveillance

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