Infrastructure at the Target of Cyber ​​Attacks: The Need to Protect Connected Routes

Have you ever thought that a cyber attack could cause a shortage of gasoline, or a shortage of food or transportation in a country? This is already a reality, and such cases have occurred frequently.

The whole world has witnessed a unique increase in cyber attacks on critical infrastructure. Brazil is no exception. Here, it is very common to find industrial automation environments with direct Internet access, which have a low level of maturity and awareness of cybersecurity. These systems often lack the detection controls common in traditional IT environments.

Like any other sector of the economy, critical infrastructure has undergone rapid digital transformation, with the technology that powers factories, refineries, and utilities now directly connected to the Internet, opening the door for malicious attackers to gain access to these environments. Mission critical and security. Cybercriminals know that losing a critical infrastructure provider, if forced to stop its activities for any period, can be disastrous.

Countries like the United States are making significant efforts to reduce cyber risks in critical infrastructures, including a recent presentation by experts before the US House Homeland Security Committee to discuss the state of protecting these infrastructures. On this occasion, an expert stated that if, on the one hand, investments in new technologies represent great opportunities for efficiency, such as shifting to factories and smart cities, on the other hand, such changes can create real security gaps. Without improvements in security and resiliency, critical infrastructure providers are not prepared to deal with cyber threats.

The attack on the Colonial Pipeline shut down one of the major oil pipelines in the United States and caused fuel shortages in part of the country in 2021 (Photo: Disclosure/Colonial Pipeline)

While some of these organizations are highly prepared for cybersecurity and risk management practices, others are completely unprepared. The Brazilian industrial sector still has many outdated industrial assets and equipment without mechanisms to project risks.

To date, there is no standard defense protocol that can be effectively applied to all industries. However, there are important recommendations that can be immediately adopted to prepare these providers with regard to cybersecurity, such as establishing basic cybersecurity standards for critical infrastructure based on effective e-health practices, requiring public companies to disclose their cyber risks, and establishing standards for transparency and accountability on the part of service providers .

Attention to this issue must be urgent, as it is not currently possible to know how vulnerable the sector is, or what exposure and economic and material impact an attack could represent. This way, the doors remain open to alert cybercriminals.

In Brazil, we still do not have a body dedicated to the security of critical infrastructure, but some sectors are making efforts to address this problem. At the end of last year, for example, the National Electric Energy Agency of Brazil issued a normative decision to establish the guidelines and minimum content of cybersecurity policies to be adopted by the electric power sector, which will come into force next December 1. July.

Critical infrastructures are under attack and we must have a view of potential risks, there is a need to broaden the conversation and awareness of IT (Information Technology), OT (Operational Technology) and TA (Automation Technology) around cybersecurity as a key pillar of the process and use mechanisms and controls that allow visibility over the entire attack surface.

* Article produced by a columnist exclusively for Canaltech. The text may contain opinions and analyzes that do not necessarily reflect Canaltech’s view on this matter.

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