The BBC has reported today that the government has been told there are “failings” in the way it is planning to protect the UK’s critical infrastructure from cyber-attacks. The warning came in a National Audit Office (NAO) assessment of the UK’s national cyber-defence plan. The government is increasingly worried that these essential sectors will be targeted by foreign states seeking to disrupt UK life.
Israel Barak, Chief Information Security Officer at Cybereason:
“Risks to critical infrastructure such as industrial control systems can be minimised and managed. However, threats against this industry in particular will never be completely eradicated. In the past, the cyber criminals Cybereason has observed attacking networks in this industry would have been stopped with a combination of well-designed ‘defence in depth’ strategies and an active, attentive SOC. When focusing on the criminal element, their capabilities tend to be far more manageable from a defensive standpoint and that is perhaps the biggest takeaway. The larger portion of the threat to critical infrastructure is something that security products and practitioners are good at combating. By paying attention to hygiene and best practices, companies running ICS can greatly reduce their risk despite the threats they face.
“In general, most countries are highly vulnerable to cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure because the systems are generally old, poorly patched and managed, and designed before cyber threats were a significant concern. This means the ability to cause damage is significant, if the attacker knows what they are doing. Power grids are interconnected and thus vulnerable to cascading failures. If an attacker knows which substation to take offline or cause a surge in, they can take down significant portions of the grid without conducting a large number of intrusions. Beyond power generation, there are significant localised effects a hacker can create by going after sewage/water treatment, industrial chemical production, or the transportation system. In general, these systems are also poorly defended and have the largest capacity for real world effects via cyber.”