Seven Steps to Reduce Critical Infrastructure Risk

Seven Steps to Reduce Critical Infrastructure Risk

Emerging intelligence suggests that attacks on crucial infrastructure networks are gaining center stage. Organizations need to take measures to reduce critical infrastructure risks.

Critical infrastructure has been in the crosshairs of nation-state threat actors and cybercriminals for years. It is never too late to begin the process of safeguarding vital infrastructure. Organizations can take some measures to improve the organization’s situational awareness and risk management.

Capitalizing on strengths

The executives and boards of directors have internalized the lessons learned from high-profile intrusions. In the past two years, there has been an increase in IT and OT security budgets and a rise in the number of executives and boards involved in cybersecurity decision-making and monitoring. This greater focus might result in more fruitful budget conversations if all stakeholders agree about the danger. Cybersecurity is no longer viewed as an expense but as a competitive advantage, so now is the time to seek further investment.

Defenders can use this position of strength to move swiftly and capitalize on their most significant advantage, which is superior network knowledge compared to the intruder. Visibility into all assets is a fantastic starting point for preparing proactively and tackling likely attack vectors. Consider all systems and devices, including OT/Industrial IoT (IIoT), Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), and business IoT. This can be time-consuming, so prioritize the essential processes, machines, and devices for the most return.

Coalescing the team

Instead of initiating the creation of a separate OT governance process and Security Operations Center (SOC), which involves risk and delays, it is standard practice to assign duty and accountability for safeguarding the OT environment to the CISO. IT and OT teams can collaborate, leveraging current best practices and technologies used in IT environments and adding only incremental OT-specific capabilities to span the entire network. A holistic approach to risk management and governance enables the CISO to implement an enterprise-wide risk management plan with more efficiency and effectiveness.

Assessing and improving the security posture

Security teams should prioritize identifying security risks with asset visibility and mitigate risks such as vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. As recommended by the joint CSA, prioritize fixing known exploitable vulnerabilities. Identify and implement compensatory controls such as firewall rules and access control lists in situations when patching is impractical or impossible, such as with legacy systems. Understanding the level of vulnerability can assist businesses in deciding where to concentrate the resources and budget to prioritize crown jewels security.

Revisiting the basics

Now is the time for an update and end-user training and awareness. With an ever-expanding attack surface resulting from mixed work styles and growing interconnectivity, many attacks employ sophisticated social engineering approaches to penetrate companies. Ensure that the team stays updated on these. If an employee is spearphishing, the effectiveness of a technology protection stack is useless.

Additionally, it is essential to guarantee that IoT devices are protected by cyber hygiene. This includes using robust passwords (and not sharing passwords between users, a typical practice in industrial operations), a password vault, and multi-factor authentication. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) offers a variety of no-cost hygiene solutions, including scanning and testing, to reduce vulnerability to threats.

Also Read: Why Re-Thinking Cybersecurity at the Enterprise Level is Crucial

Controlling communications and access

Organizations should audit their network segmentation to ensure IT/OT segmentation, which decreases the likelihood of an IT network assault propagating to the OT network. In addition, virtual segmentation within the OT environment is a cost-effective and efficient method of establishing what “normal” looks like and being alerted to lateral movement when bad actors attempt to establish a presence, leap zones, and move throughout the environment. Moreover, if remote activities require direct access to OT networks, ensure that this is accomplished via a secure remote access connection with stringent restrictions over users, devices, and sessions.

Monitoring systems

Complex attacks necessitate tremendous planning on the adversary and typically require a considerable amount of time and lateral mobility to execute. Rapidly deployable, agentless solutions that are purpose-built for continuous threat monitoring across the OT network can provide early warning indicators of compromise.

Building Preparedness

Tabletop simulations of probable events help enhance organizational and technical preparation. Utilize the lessons learned to construct an enhanced incident response plan. Formalize partnerships with incident response and legal firms if they are not already in place. Security teams can provide organizations with better, faster advice in the event of an attack if they already know the main internal stakeholders, have visibility into existing IT and OT infrastructure and controls, and understand the business and risk profile.

As the saying goes, perfect should not be the enemy of good. CEOs and top executives are now aware that measures to secure critical infrastructure must be accelerated and begin immediately. The immediate procedures outlined above offer the best risk reduction to effort ratio and get the business moving in the right direction.

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