Cybersecurity > Compliance: Safeguarding critical infrastructure in the digital age

Renewable energy - wind solar panels depicting the critical infrastructure sector

In this blog, we embark on a journey through the intricate realm of cybersecurity within critical infrastructure. As we navigate this multifaceted landscape, we’ll explore the unique challenges it presents, and the strategies required to effectively fortify these vital systems against evolving threats.

Understanding the Critical Infrastructure Cyber Threat Landscape

Critical infrastructure is the backbone of a nation’s functioning, encompassing power grids, transportation systems, and financial institutions—all of which rely heavily on digital technologies. A breach in these sectors can lead to catastrophic consequences for national security and stability.

That’s why the sector faces an escalating number of threats from a diverse range of actors. These include nation-state actors seeking to cause security and economic dislocation, cybercriminals who recognize its economic value, and hacktivists protesting specific issues or broader agendas.

Critical infrastructure remains a sought-after target.

  • Cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure around the world jumped from 20% of all nation-state attacks 40%. (Source: Microsoft Digital Defense Report 2022)
  • More than one-third of ransomware attacks reported to the FBI last year impacted organizations in a critical infrastructure sector. (Source: FBI)

A single attack can cause irreversible damage.

  • Over half (54%) of U.S. suppliers surveyed reported attempts to controls systems, and 40% experienced attempts to shut down systems. Cybercriminals acting against critical infrastructure and manufacturing are less inclined to steal data. Rather, these figures suggest their motive is far more concerning. (Source: Allianz Commercial)
  • By 2025, 30% of critical infrastructure organizations will experience a security breach resulting in the halting of a mission-critical system. (Source: Gartner®)

The unique interdependencies between physical systems and virtual infrastructure in the energy sector further heighten the risk of cyber threats. A disruption in one part of this interdependency could affect the other, leading to potential consequences such as loss of power, equipment destruction, and damage to devices throughout the grid—not to mention the impact on the overall population.

Security and risk leaders at critical infrastructure organizations struggle to keep up with the pace of transformation.

  • Nearly 80% of critical infrastructure organizations have yet to adopt zero-trust strategies, causing the average data breach to rise $1.17M to $5.4M. (Source: IBM, Cost of a Data Breach 2022)
  • While 43% of other organizations have extensively automated their security hygiene activities, only 23% of the oil, gas, and utilities had the same response. (Source)

In this era, data is often considered an organization’s most valued asset. Critical infrastructure organizations handle a wealth of sensitive information, including operational data, proprietary technology, and confidential plans. Securing this data isn’t just a priority; it’s a legal obligation.

Compliance Driven, or Cybersecurity Centric?

National regulations and mandates offer a legal framework for critical infrastructure organizations to implement robust cybersecurity measures. These regulations often necessitate the identification and protection of critical assets, effectively reducing vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers.

Regulations dictate compliance. However, addressing the constantly evolving threat landscape requires innovative cybersecurity strategies and technologies. While new cybersecurity requirements and policies may require organizations to deploy specific security measures and technologies, the key to success lies in the skillful orchestration of these tools to create a robust defense-in-depth strategy.

Guardians of the Grid: The key to securing critical infrastructure        

In the high-stakes arena of critical infrastructure cybersecurity, two new technology approaches are becoming central to cyber resilience strategies : cyber asset attack surface management (CAASM) and continuous threat exposure management (CTEM). The synergy between these concepts extends beyond mere compliance; they are central to an organization’s ability to anticipate, counteract, and recover from cyber threats.

Noetic Cyber’s innovative approach to attack surface and exposure management is at the heart of this, offering a comprehensive approach to bolstering critical infrastructure security in the way the platform:

  • Defines and defend your digital borders.

Critical infrastructure organizations often must operate a geographically distributed infrastructure across numerous sites, making it challenging to maintain visibility across IT and OT systems.

Furthermore, the sector’s organizational complexity, characterized by different business units responsible for refining, generating, transmitting, and distributing goods, often results in separate IT and OT policy regimes. This structure complicates the assurance of overall network security.

Regardless of where your data lives, Noetic extracts critical insights to ensure you’re gaining complete visibility into all assets, devices, applications, and potential vulnerabilities across your physical and virtual infrastructure.

  • Reduces team workload.

Cybersecurity personnel are under extreme pressure. The sheer volume of security alerts and incidents that require investigation can be overwhelming. Noetic uses asset context and business criticality to helps teams to triage and prioritize based on the risk to the business. This not only reduces the strain on security teams but also ensures that they can focus on the most critical threats.

  • Aligns with key standards and regulations.

Many regulations explicitly mandate the need for comprehensive asset discovery and inventory, and regular scanning for critical vulnerabilities and exposure. Not only does the platform enable your organization to meet these security standards, it can also automate the evidence collection process required so that your team can focus on higher-value activities.

  • Drive more value from your existing tech stack.

Organizations are often armed with dozens of security tools, ranging from cloud security posture management to endpoint protection solutions. However, this tool sprawl can often lead to complexity, inefficiency, and resource strain. Security leaders need to optimize their existing toolset for maximum effectiveness. The Noetic platform helps our customers to build a cohesive defense strategy by unlocking the data in their existing tools through our agentless connectors.

For security and risk leaders, embracing change is not just a response to regulations; it is a proactive commitment to the safety and stability of our critical infrastructure. By adapting their security and risk management practices accordingly, the sector can ensure the protection of assets, maintain operational continuity, and safeguard the world’s energy supply.

Visit our solutions page to learn more about how Noetic plays a pivotal role in securing essential systems: Noetic for Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity