Cyber threats are everywhere, and no industrial organization or enterprise is safe. Today’s organizations need to know a few things to protect themselves better. This article will discuss what you need to know about industrial cyber threats from three aspects.
- Types of cyber threats
- Targets of industrial cyber threats
- Countermeasures against industrial cyber threats
Types of cyber threats
Cyber threats are constantly changing, and industrial companies should look at some of the most common cyber threats.
Ransomware is malicious software used by cyber attackers to extort money from victims who must pay a ransom to gain access to their data. Ransomware typically involves several steps. First, the organization’s systems are hacked, and malware is installed. Then, the malware gains control of the machine by encrypting data using ransomware. Finally, the attacked machine displays a “blackmail,” indicating a ransom. Often, organizations receive a ransom note from an infected machine and recognize they have been attacked.
Social engineering is the psychological manipulation of people into taking action or divulging confidential information. The most common form is an email phishing attack. (1) Email phishing is the practice of sending deceptive spam messages to trick recipients into giving out sensitive information. Often, social engineering is the first step in a multi-step cyber attack.
Supply Chain Attacks
A supply chain attack refers to an attacker accessing an enterprise network through a third-party supplier or supply chain and spreading viruses or other malicious software to obtain information or steal certificates. In April 2021, Australian company ClickStudios announced a supply chain attack. The attacker reportedly gained access to an update server hosted by Passwordstate on a third-party CDN. During this period, any customer who updated the software could have downloaded a malware DLL.
Cyber threats occur not only externally but often internally. The threat may involve an internal employee or former employee. The danger of an insider threat is that anyone with access to a company’s critical passwords can become a threat participant. The threat may be malicious, coming from a disgruntled employee, or unintentional because of some human error. Experience of past incidents indicates that insider threats are as dangerous as external ones.
Targets of industrial cyber threats
Since the pandemic’s beginning, the connection between OT and IT networks has become even closer. The convergence of OT and IT has improved operational efficiency and quality of service, but the attack surface that attackers can target has also expanded. Here are the industries that industrial cyber threats might target.
Energy and utilities
Energy and utilities are responsible for the transmission, distribution, and retail of electricity, gas, and water. Possible cyber threats include ransomware, transmission outages, and data theft. The industry is highly vulnerable to cyber threats. For example, certain threat actors target utilities, such as hackers against utilities or criminal groups seeking national chaos, etc. To complicate things and add to the vulnerability, the industry’s geographic and organizational complexity provides a broad attack surface for attackers.
The healthcare industry has always been a tempting target for cybercriminals. However, while early attackers often sought to gain access to doctor-patient information stored by industry groups, the emergence of ransomware has dramatically changed the threat landscape facing the healthcare industry. In the wake of the pandemic, it has become a frequent occurrence for attackers to steal, encrypt and even leak critical data due to ransomware. For medical institutions, paying ransoms is accompanied by concerns about the safety of patients. Because even a small amount of downtime can cause much harm to patients. That’s why attackers like to target the healthcare industry.
The attacks on the government never seem to stop. Government data is valuable to hackers, often sponsored and funded by opposition parties or the state. They are politically motivated to target government data, networks, and systems in the hope of stealing specific information. The government can hold data on millions of people and sensitive political information, which can be costly if it falls into the wrong hands.
Countermeasures against industrial cyber threats
Here are some suggested measures to help organizations respond to industrial cyber threats.
Employees are every organization’s first line of defense against cyber threats. Companies can regularly conduct training on cybersecurity basics, the types of currently prevalent attacks, and how to deal with them. Training can lay a good foundation for employees’ awareness of cyber security and reduce the probability that employees cause severe losses due to their lack of security knowledge in daily work.
Develop an incident response plan
An incident response plan is an approach to managing a security incident that includes procedures and policies for preparing, assessing, containing, and recovering from a security incident. Organizations can use the program to proactively maintain network security and minimize damage from viruses, hacking, etc.
Update the system and software regularly
With the rapid development of cyber threats, organizations need to strengthen their security networks by regularly updating relevant systems and software. Every system and software has a life cycle, and if it is not upgraded to a new version in time, it increases the risk of network attacks on the organization.
Establish appropriate access management
Proper access management is critical to help ensure that employees only access work-related resources that are absolutely necessary to perform their duties. Also, this helps to ensure that employees’ access is immediately terminated when they leave or are fired to reduce potential risks.