Critical infrastructure cyber risks refer to the potential threats and vulnerabilities that could compromise the security and functionality of essential systems and assets.
Firstly, critical infrastructure is recognized by governments as the body of systems, networks and assets (be that physical or virtual). That is so essential that their continued operation is required to ensure the security of a given nation, its economy and the public’s health and/or safety. Essentially, these are OT assets that are crucial for the functioning of society. The destruction of these assets would have a debilitating effect on security in all aspects and the consequences are so perilous that mitigating any threat is imperative.
Critical Infrastructure Cyber Risks
As critical infrastructure can be a difficult target to attack, a perpetrator would likely be a state-sponsored actor who possesses the necessary capabilities. Additionally, targeting an adversary’s critical infrastructure is a big win. Even if there is no substantial damage, successfully infiltrating a nation’s critical infrastructure can cause significant distress among the population and undermine their confidence in the government’s ability to preserve national security. Again, because of this, it is likely that a culprit would have some ties to a government.
All industries are becoming more reliant on technology and any device connected to a network is at risk of being hacked. As such, cyberwarfare is very real and is growing in prominence. Critical infrastructure, due to its vital role in society, makes the perfect target for governments looking to cause mass destruction. Stuxnet attack on Iran’s nuclear facility is an example.
Malware attacks can be extremely effective. With the 2016 power cut in Kiev being attributed to a malware attack perpetrated by Russia. Similarly, ransomware attacks can be highly successful due to the critical nature of facilities. Moreover, some critical infrastructure is exposed to highly sensitive information. Not only on employees and consumers, but also on the government and government personnel. As such, data breaches will be a popular attack by those wishing to gain access to this information. Again, for state, and state sponsored actors, this will be an appealing way to sabotage adversaries (insider risk management).
In response to the evolving landscape of critical infrastructure cyber risks, a multifaceted approach to cybersecurity risk management is imperative.
Critical infrastructure cyber risks are magnified by the widespread use of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) across various sectors. These components play a pivotal role in ensuring the proper functioning of critical infrastructure. However, their vulnerability is exacerbated by the prevalence of outdated systems lacking robust online security features.
The risk of a cyberattack on PLCs was demonstrated in 2017 by a PhD student at Georgia Institute of Technology. He developed ransomware that attacked water supply by compromising PLCs. 1,500 were found online, and highly vulnerable to a cyberattack. The student was able to control the PLCs so that an abundance of chlorine was filtered into the water, making it undrinkable. Similarly, banks’ legacy systems are also out of date. Hence not having cybersecurity functions built within thereby making them an easy target.
Lack of Attention to CyberSecurity
Critical infrastructure cyber risks encompass a broad range of threats, including cyber risks that can have far-reaching consequences. Sectors within critical infrastructure mistakenly do not put cybersecurity as a top priority. Rather focus on using new technologies to improve efficiency and customer experience. Malicious actors, however, are looking for the vulnerabilities in these new technologies that they can exploit.
Internet of Things
The landscape of critical infrastructure cyber risks is evolving as owners of essential systems embrace new technologies to enhance various facets of operation. It is not surprising that around a third of the 25 billion IoT devices in the world are being used to monitor and control infrastructure. Operational technologies are now connected to the internet. Although this improves efficiency and customer satisfaction, it also increases the number of entry points for an attack to be carried out, since they are connected to the network (IoT Security).
Importance of Critical Infrastructure
The intrinsic nature of critical infrastructure places it in a uniquely vulnerable position when it comes to various critical infrastructure cyber risks. Including the growing threat of ransomware attacks. The significance of these infrastructures, given their vital role in maintaining societal functions, renders them especially susceptible to the devastating consequences of ransomware attacks. In such attacks, malicious actors block access to files or systems, demanding a ransom payment in exchange for restoring functionality.
Size of Companies
The magnitude of critical infrastructure cyber risks is amplified by the substantial scale of companies responsible for providing essential services to entire nations. As such, there are more employees. The biggest risk to any organization. The lack of knowledge and awareness regarding cyberattacks means employees might not take appropriate action to prevent them where they can. There are a large number of employees that can, wittingly or unwittingly, cause a cyberattack and this large number makes it more challenging to identify the perpetrator (employees role in cybersecurity).
Addressing critical infrastructure cyber risks associated with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD security risks) policies demands a comprehensive approach that extends beyond conventional cybersecurity measures. Although several solutions provide substantial protection against the security risks involved with BYOD, they do not provide protection for undetectable hardware attacks. Personal devices are extremely susceptible to these attacks. As it is easier for a perpetrator to target them than the devices secured within an organization. Hardware attacks can be carried out on the network by using network implants at the Physical Layer (Layer 1), spoofed network elements or by using vulnerabilities of devices connected to the Enterprise’s network. Another popular attack interface is the USB attack. Where attack tools fully impersonate (VID/PID/ClassID) as a legitimate human interface devices (HIDs), thereby not raising any alarms.
Sepio has developed a solution to detect, alert and block rogue devices operating over network and USB interfaces. This is the only software security solution for this type of attack. By discovering rogue devices through hardware fingerprinting and behavior analytics, Sepio provides alerts for security threats, enforces policies and delivers risk insights and best practices recommendations.
Amid the realm of critical infrastructure cyber risks, enterprises face ongoing challenges in maintaining comprehensive visibility into their hardware assets. Many times, enterprises’ IT and security teams struggle in providing complete and accurate visibility into their hardware assets inventory. Especially in today’s extremely challenging IT/OT/IoT environment. This is due to the fact that often, there is a lack of visibility, which leads to a weakened policy enforcement of hardware access. This may result in security accidents, such as ransomware attacks, data leakage, etc.
In order to address this challenge, ultimate visibility into your Hardware assets is required, regardless of their characteristics and the interface used for connection as attackers. Moreover, it is important to be practical and adjust to the dynamic Cyber security defenses put in place to block them, as well as take advantage of the “blind” spots – mainly through USB Human Interface Device (HID) emulating devices or Physical layer network implants. In addition to the deep visibility layer, a comprehensive policy enforcement mechanism recommends on best practice policy and allows the administrator to define a strict, or more granular, set of rules for the system to enforce.
Sepio’s Leadership Hardware Attacks Mitigation
In the realm of critical infrastructure cyber risks, Sepio has emerged as a front runner in the Rogue Device Mitigation (RDM) market. And is disrupting the cybersecurity industry by uncovering hidden hardware attacks operating over network and USB interfaces. Sepio’s Asset Risk Management, identifies, detects and handles all peripherals. No device goes unmanaged.
The only company in the world to undertake Physical Layer fingerprinting, Sepio calculates a digital fingerprint using the device descriptors of all connected peripherals and compares them against a known set of malicious devices, automatically blocking any attacks. With Machine Learning, the software analyses device behavior to identify abnormalities, such as a mouse acting as a keyboard.