Physical infrastructure and industrial systems at greater risk of cyber attacks


The world is facing a “new wave” of cyber attacks which target industrial systems and physical infrastructure, said Mr Eugene Kaspersky, Chairman and CEO of cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab. This trend puts critical infrastructure at greater risk of damage.

With the rise in the Internet of Things (IoT) and types of devices connected to networks, there has been a growing number of attacks on IoT in recent years, he noted. SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), commonly used industrial control systems at the core of many manufacturing, energy, water and power plants, are more targeted by cyber criminals than ever.

Mr Kaspersky, who was speaking at Kaspersky Lab’s Paleontology of Cybersecurity conference in Singapore last week, said: “This is just the beginning of a new wave of this kind of problems. So that’s the bad news.”

He noted that recent examples of combination of cyber attacks and infrastructure include last year’s cyber attack on a New York dam, the infamous 2010 Stuxnet case, a 2014 incident where hackers gained control of production software in a German steel mill and another 2016 case where the level of chemicals in a water treatment plant was manipulated by cyber criminals.

The “good news”, in his view, is that such attacks are “the worst of the worst”. And criminals generally attack systems with the main intention to seek profit, rather than to destroy them.

“We’ll never have a scenario which are worse than attacks on critical infrastructure. But we have to be ready for that,” he said.

Prioritising protection

“We need to protect all of that,” he said, but it would help to define and prioritise the importance of different infrastructure. The top layer, most critical to civilisation, would be power grids and power plants.

The next important layer would be transportation, financial services and telecoms, and then the tier of urban facilities, healthcare and government services.

Mr Kaspersky noted that protecting infrastructure is more complicated than security for gadgets like smartphones and computers, because it is something that is everywhere around us and special solutions need to be tailored for its different parts.

Large enterprises targeted

He added that when it comes to securing infrastructure, it is much easier for small and medium-sized businesses, where protection in the form of downloading and installing software preventing attacks would usually suffice. Larger enterprises will find it much more complicated to protect themselves, as they are not only victims of traditional cyber attacks, but also targeted ones.

“Targeted attacks are highly professional and because they are very expensive to carry out, (the criminals) tend to target the ‘big fish’. The big fish, to protect itself, must not only have end point security prevention, but must be able to detect someone inside its network who got through its protection layers. It must also be able to respond, investigate and learn from the incident to prevent future threats,” said Mr Kaspersky.

The main perpetrators of targeted attacks today are criminals and states, he said. While there was “no such thing as highly professional criminal cyber attacks” three to five years ago, cyber criminals have since progressed to operating “at the same level” as state-sponsored attacks today.

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Source: Asia Insurance Review