Exclusive: It’s time to prioritize critical infrastructure security 


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Kevin Pighetti, Senior Director of Business Development,Prosegur describes how we can leverage technology to prevent attacks on critical infrastructure.

Critical infrastructure is a vast network of interconnected industries that are vital to maintaining normalcy in daily life. Globally, critical infrastructure sectors provide clean water, gas, banking and other essential services and consist of multiple departments, sectors, legislation and processes.

A threat or attack on any part of our critical infrastructure could lead to disastrous effects on a nation’s security as well as public health and safety for its citizens.

Federal, state and local governments – not to mention private companies and individual citizens – share responsibility for critical infrastructure security. The Worldwide Critical Infrastructure Protection Market continues to grow, with hundreds of billions of dollars invested each year to ensure critical infrastructure is protected through standard operating procedures, preparedness plans and advancements to each sector. However, critical infrastructure security is frequently overlooked or is a lower priority for businesses that have not experienced an attack. 

Due to changes in working environments and the need for remote work standards, cyber-crime intensified during the pandemic. Cyber-incidents rose 600% during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report from PurpleSec.

In the US, 14 out of 16 critical infrastructure sectors had at least one member that fell victim to a ransomware attack in 2021, according to a report by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Ransomware posed the biggest threat to critical infrastructure organisations last year with a 40% increase in ransomware attacks during the pandemic. 

Due to the ongoing and increasing threats, it is important for businesses to prioritise critical infrastructure security in the event that their nation’s infrastructure faces an attack.

Improving sector security

In the event of an attack on critical infrastructure, there are a number of risks to consider. These include physical attacks on the infrastructure, cyber-attacks and businesses failing to prioritise their overall risk in the event of an attack.

If critical infrastructure is compromised in any sector, businesses will operate less efficiently or may no longer operate. Take, for example, the communications sector; a majority of organisations use mobile phones to communicate and conduct business. Since cell towers are utilized by a large number of phone providers, it is crucial to ensure those towers are operating efficiently and protected from potential attacks. If a cell tower is taken down for any reason, a company’s ability to operate will drastically decrease.

Cybersecurity is a necessary solution for businesses, especially with ransomware posing a major threat to critical infrastructure. According to a release by the Cybersecurity Advisory – a coalition of cybersecurity authorities in the US, Australia and the United Kingdom – sophisticated, high impact ransomware incidents against critical infrastructure organizations have increased globally in the last year. 

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are another evergrowing threat as they can completely shut down a website or result in hackers gaining access to company databases and stealing customer data for their own benefit, thus seriously affecting a business. According to data from the Infosecurity Group, 16 DDoS attacks take place every minute and the frequency of such attacks increased by 25% in the first month of the COVID-19 lockdown.

In addition to implementing security measures, there is a variety of legislation in place to help protect critical infrastructure. In the US, the National Infrastructure Protection Plan was created to outline how both public and private sector entities would work together to protect critical infrastructure in 2013. 

Five years later, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Act of 2018 was created to manage risks associated with the nation’s critical infrastructure and help to refine the security and resilience of America’s physical and cyber infrastructure. 

That same year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology developed the Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, focusing on using business drivers to guide cybersecurity activities for critical infrastructure sectors and considering cybersecurity risks as part of the organisation’s risk management processes.

Most recently, CISA passed the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act, requiring owners and operators to report significant cyber incidents and ransomware attacks to CISA within 72 hours for greater visibility, better information and threat intelligence to defend against future attacks. This will hold businesses accountable as there are now financial penalties for not adhering to the standards set by CISA and should increase business’ commitment at all levels to make their company’s security – physical and cyber – a top priority.

Utilising technology to prevent attacks

If there is a threat or attack on nearby critical infrastructure that impacts surrounding businesses, it is important to have the ability to react quickly with appropriate force. The best way to prevent an attack is through knowledge of a business’ infrastructure or the infrastructure surrounding a business and the security measures that can be taken for protection. Businesses must learn about security best practices to ensure resiliency within the industry for the future.

Innovation is at the forefront of many sectors as organizations are gaining interest in the technology aspect of security and what is the best protective solution, long term. For example, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ annual report highlights how the nation’s ports are making strides in innovation through technology. 

Ports are utilizing advanced analytics, such as blockchain, to improve efficiencies by using existing and historic data collected with devices and sensors through open-sourced platforms. Advanced analytics aid ports in becoming more resilient as predictive approaches driven by machine learning ensure flexible, responsive and adaptive management amid highly complex and dynamic scenarios.

Businesses are moving toward protective measures that leverage technology like never before, not only to prevent a physical or cyber-attack, but to recover and take time-sensitive action in the event of a breach.

A great example of how companies are implementing technology like AI to automatically take action during an event is through dynamic guarding. Dynamic guarding combines technology and mobile security patrols to help prevent theft, vandalism, loitering and safety incidents by deploying physical assets to a location in question whether that be a guard, local or even federal law enforcement. 

By utilizing this technology, businesses can keep their valuable assets secure and many services can even predict when an attack will occur for prevention.

Although preventing an attack is oftentimes the highest priority for businesses, it is important to have an action plan to deal with a threat or attack when it happens. First, businesses should develop and implement a clear plan that outlines how employees will be protected in the event of a critical infrastructure attack, executive and employee responsibilities during and post-attack and a remediation plan following an attack.

Then, businesses should conduct training to ensure employees know how to respond to an attack. By preparing employees for the inevitable, businesses are placing a priority on their safety practices and will have the ability to efficiently navigate an attack in the event it happens to the critical infrastructure in their vicinity. 

Roughly 85% of Prosegur’s clients want enhanced security after an attack, highlighting that a majority of businesses are reactive in securing their assets. By enhancing security and leveraging technology in a proactive manner, businesses can prevent, prepare for and respond to a potential attack on their critical infrastructure.

For more information, visit: https: www.prosegur.com/en

This article was originally published in the May edition of ISJ. To read your FREE digital copy, click here. 

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