Understanding the increased cyber risks inherent in Critical National Infrastructure

July 30, 2020

As industries and organisations continue to digitise, the cyber risks inherently increase. The issues of cyber security simply cannot be divorced from the benefits of optimisation, speed, and connectivity, all of which are a result of digital transformation. Organisations of all sizes and industries are grappling with this – but one sector that is finding increased cyber threats immediately pressing is Critical National Infrastructure. As data breaches become commonplace, infrastructure organisations must ensure that they are doing everything possible to avoid a breach that is not only costly and disruptive, but also potentially dangerous.

Critical National Infrastructure includes networks such as water grids and power grids – external forces that succeed in shutting down either of these could have serious implications, shutting down necessary equipment in hospitals, government, and even in private homes. The economic impacts would also be great, as the infrastructure grapples with fixing and restarting the system.

Typically, the greatest threats to infrastructure have their origins in other nation-states, due to their ultimate goal and the resources needed to successfully hack such a guarded system. However, any gap in security that allows an attacker to gain access to the network or is susceptible to a malware or ransomware infection is a serious threat.

Critical National Infrastructure typically relies on operational technology (OT) systems, which govern their physical assets – and which often don’t integrate cleanly with modern IT systems. This gap marks the biggest vulnerability that can be exploited by cyber attackers. As such, these infrastructure organisations cannot wait to implement increased cyber security measures – risk assessments must be done regularly and security flaws addressed as necessary. The inconsistencies between OT and IT must be addressed, using solutions that can cross over to secure both.

As digital transformation continues to revolutionise operations across industries, Critical National Infrastructure organisations must keep cyber security in mind to protect not only their processes, but the nation and their citizens.

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