The Biden administration recently issued a proclamation designating November as Critical Infrastructure Security and Resiliency Month. At a time when the global economy still suffers from shortages due to broken supply chains and when Congress has just passed a major infrastructure initiative, the topic could not come sooner.
The administration’s proclamation highlights one of the most essential elements of this subject: digital infrastructures. From launching an initiative to partner with the private sector on cybersecurity of critical infrastructure, to focusing on cyber threats alongside physical and climate threats, the U.S. government clearly recognizes that the word “infrastructure” does. not just reference to roads, bridges and electricity. lines. Just months after a massive cyber attack on the Colonial Pipeline cut off gas supplies to much of the East Coast, a renewed focus on cybersecurity for critical infrastructure could not be more urgent.
Critical infrastructure is one of the few areas where the private sector has a critical role to play in the defense of the country, which is why the administration’s proclamation calls for a “collaborative effort between the federal government and our partners. the private sector to dramatically improve the cybersecurity of our critical systems. Let’s take a look at some of the ways businesses can help this effort and protect the systems that make our country work.
Resist an alarming and clear trend
As networks and infrastructure systems become increasingly interconnected and digitized, the number of vulnerabilities for threat actors to exploit increases dramatically. Check Point’s ThreatCloud Database revealed that ransomware attacks recently increased 300% over a nine-month period, while attacks on U.S. utilities increased 50% in just two months. An article published by the World Economic Forum reported that more than 60% of ransomware attacks “target sectors with critical infrastructure, led by healthcare, utilities and manufacturing.”
Cyber attacks on critical infrastructure have become so prevalent that a bipartisan group of lawmakers recently introduced a bill that, like The hill reports, “require federal agencies, government contractors and groups considered essential to national security – such as hospitals, utilities, financial services and information technology groups – to report cyber incidents to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within 24 hours “. It is yet another reminder that businesses and organizations across many sectors and industries are responsible for the security of critical infrastructure in the country. Meanwhile, the recently approved $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure package includes $ 1 billion in cybersecurity funding for state and local governments – the largest such investment in history.
But what are the best ways for them to do this? All the emphasis on cybersecurity will be wasted if there are no concrete steps to make the systems, networks, and organizations overseeing them more resilient. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most effective ways to respond to the national call to action on infrastructure cybersecurity.
Collaboratively defend our critical infrastructure
It’s hard to think of many conjunctions of words that sound more intimidating than “infrastructure cybersecurity,” especially after a string of destructive attacks on large corporations and the US government. The complexity and scale of infrastructure systems, coupled with the potentially devastating effects if breached, can lead to understandable anxiety among those tasked with preventing cyberattacks. But just as cybercriminals and other threat actors have more resources at their disposal than ever before, there are also many powerful countermeasures to deploy.
The federal government spent $ 790 million more on cybersecurity in 2020 than in 2019, while Gartner expects global spending on information security and risk management to exceed $ 150 billion. dollars this year, an increase of 12.4% from 2020. With the explosion of cybersecurity budgets, it’s important to consider the most cost-effective resources available. For example, there is a reason why CISA emphasizes training that provides participants with “the knowledge and skills necessary to implement critical infrastructure security and resilience activities.” As the Verizon 2021 Data Breach Investigation Report demonstrates, social engineering is the primary culprit in breaches, the vast majority of which “involve a human element.” Training is the key to bringing these numbers down.
Just as overly human error is a major risk to our critical infrastructure, employees can also be the most powerful guarantors of cybersecurity. As long as cyber attacks continue to rely on social engineering tactics like phishing to infiltrate infrastructure systems, well-trained employees will be on the front lines in the fight to prevent these attacks.
Prepare for a Changing Threat Landscape
As cyber threats to critical infrastructure evolve rapidly, strategies to counter them will need to keep pace. For example, the shift to remote working has exposed businesses to a wide range of new threats. A 2021 report from HP found that 30% of employees let someone else use their work device, 69% used personal devices for work, and 71% accessed company data more frequently when they did. worked from home. The vast majority of IT pros say these behaviors make cyberattacks more likely, and 44% said they have seen compromised devices used to infect entire organizations in the past year.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report notes that modern infrastructure “depends on computer systems to run its operations.” As these systems become more and more distributed with the shift to remote working (as well as the dramatic increase in the number of IoT devices in use), organizations responsible for the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure will need to be more proactive to ensure they are ensure that employees only use authorized devices. ; refrain from sharing these devices with others; guard against credential theft with password managers, the use of VPNs and multi-factor authentication; and consistently adhere to data security and privacy guidelines and requirements.
Interconnected and digitized infrastructure systems offer countless advantages: real-time data reporting, greater efficiency, faster response times in an emergency, etc. However, these systems are more vulnerable than ever to a range of cyber attacks. The only way to deal with the profusion of cyber threats to critical infrastructure is to make sure employees know what they look like and how to defeat them.