According to a recent report published by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Accenture titled “Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2022 report,” cyber-security veterans consider critical infrastructure failure as one of the top three cyber-risk concerns, along with ransomware and identity theft.
Government and other regulatory organizations are exploring opportunities to concentrate on enforcing new legal policies that require critical infrastructure operators to report serious breaches in their networks. The enforced EU Cybersecurity Act and the recent US Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act of 2022 incentivize private organizations to invest more in security. However, securing critical infrastructure with various sophisticated cyber-threats and risks is challenging.
Attacks on the supply chain are one of the most lucrative critical infrastructure attacks that cybercriminals leverage to accomplish their malicious goals. A few Canadian ports have been a victim of successful cyberattacks.
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“It is a positive sign that the operational mission of the Port of Halifax has been maintained even with the shutdown of its external websites. As operational technology (OT) and IT environments continue to converge, attacks on IT systems have increasing potential to “spill over” into OT, which poses a greater risk to uptime and availability of critical processes. Based on initial reports, it appears that this specific attack has been contained,” says Simon Chassar, CRO at Claroty.
To thwart these attempts, critical infrastructure organizations need to increase their focus on implementing protective measures now.
Following are a few ways to improve the security posture for critical infrastructures
Embrace Zero Trust Security
Organizations need a zero-trust policy to embrace resilience in their security posture against sophisticated threats and risks. A zero-trust network architecture considers all users, devices, and software, regardless of whether they are inside or outside the network insecure. This security posture helps organizations enforce a vigilant and real-time identity verification requirement to access any resources within the business network.
Moreover, the zero-trust policy only grants access to the resources required to perform their job. Enforcing stringent identity and access management policies and embracing the least-privilege access approach helps businesses to secure critical infrastructure effectively. Organizations that adopt a zero-trust security posture will have less exposure to data breaches and protect less secure devices or applications from sophisticated cyber-risks and threats.
Keep The Basics Intact
The majority of businesses have become victims of full-blown critical infrastructure attacks because SecOps teams leave wide-open attack surface areas. Cyber-Criminals leverage these attack surface areas to infiltrate the network and move laterally. Many SecOps teams leave cybersecurity gaps open, considering them as small ones. Malicious actors are on the prowl to seek every opportunity to compromise critical infrastructure systems and move laterally in the business network. CISOs can consider setting up default login credentials on all devices and schedule regular updates to patch the network.
Organizations also can design and implement a strong password management policy, especially while managing critical infrastructure. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is an efficient tool that organizations can leverage to strengthen their business network against unauthorized access. Data encryption during rest and transit is essential to protect the organization from sophisticated data breaches. One crucial aspect that businesses need to consider while protecting their critical infrastructure is updating firmware and software patches in real-time. Business leaders can educate the resources about the latest cyber-threats and vulnerabilities to improve vigilance while managing it.
“CISA’s Cybersecurity Performance Goals (CPGs) provide organizations a good place to start. As described in the CPGs, organizations need to focus on implementing strong two-factor remote access, gaining visibility into all connected OT assets to enable security teams to patch critical vulnerabilities and close security gaps,” adds Simon.
Ensure Air-Gapped security and Restrict the Impact with Segmentation
During a full-blown cyber-attack, organizations want their controls to limit the ransomware from moving laterally in the network and attackers from gaining access to critical infrastructure. Security decision-makers can achieve this by making network segments and air gaps the backups. This security approach separates the individual workloads within the business network and secures traffic moving within a data center. Moreover, one significant benefit of this approach is that it allows organizations to isolate and protect the backups even if ransomware spreads inside the business network.
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“In addition, granular network segmentation enforcement between IT and OT assets, combined with granular segmentation between groups of OT assets, should be implemented to limit the movement of threat actors and malware laterally to minimize the impact of any breaches,” adds Simon.
Enforce Holistic Physical Security
CISOs must understand that not every critical infrastructure element will be in a secure data center. The sensitive business network elements are spread across field offices and remote locations. Such physical locations need robust physical security posture and policies similar to a secured and hardened data center. Limiting and monitoring physical access to the facilities with access to the critical infrastructure with badging and biometrics is crucial. Restricting access for guests and visitors is one of the most effective ways to strengthen physical security. However, it cannot always be the case; organizations can even embrace a visitor logging approach with temporary badges. Enterprises with sensitive critical infrastructure can also have physical escorts to ingrain vigilance. It is also crucial to have real-time video monitoring and front desk and security personnel to keep the physical perimeters secure.
Securing critical infrastructure should be one of the top priorities for organizations and security leaders to avoid disruption. CISOs and SecOps teams can consider these strategies to strengthen their critical infrastructure security.
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