How to Defend Against Threats to Critical Infrastructure

BugBase - The BugGyaan Blog
5 min readOct 20, 2022

One of the most important cybersecurity lessons learned this year is that businesses are only as safe as their weakest supplier and that common security flaws frequently serve as the primary entry points into vital corporate systems.

This is due to the fact that the majority of big businesses find it difficult to have insight into their own asset inventories and, much more so, into the asset inventories of their supplier chains. A malicious actor need not aim for the shortest path into a programme; instead, they might search for integration, a less secure supplier, or a conspicuously ignored legacy system.

We shall further discuss the need to mitigate threats to protect critical infrastructure.

Why is Critical Infrastructure Being Targeted?

Although the fusion of analogue and digital assets has significant operational advantages, it also introduces hazards.

A remote attack on IT systems might have caused system damage and data loss in the past. The OT system would be unaffected but may harm a company’s reputation or stop operations. IT and OT are no longer distinct as utilities use cloud computing, remote access, smart devices, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Maintaining an OT system down to prevent interference, or “air-gapping,” is no longer a practical cybersecurity option.

Understanding the Threat to Critical Infrastructure

Critical infrastructure requires several networks with intricate software and hardware requirements that span tens of thousands of miles and numerous remote sites. These systems’ immense scale and breadth provide a wealth of vulnerable access points for cybercriminals.

Infrastructure is vulnerable, and cyberattacks are increasing.

According to a 2019 analysis by Siemens and the Ponemon Institute, energy companies are ill-prepared, and cyberattacks are on the rise among the utility industry experts surveyed:

In the upcoming year, 54% anticipate an assault on key infrastructure.

25% report mega attacks, whose scale and complexity point to nation-state actors’ participation.

Each year, at least one stoppage or operating loss occurs at 56%.

42% rated their level of cyber preparedness as high.

34% said they had high-quality defences against an assault.

Cybercriminals may now steal data and meddle with real-world physical assets because of the confluence of IT and OT. For instance, using remote access alone, it is now feasible to disable or even kill a wind turbine. This is alarming.

Before you can work on mitigating such threats, you need to be familiar with the most common types of attacks that make an infrastructure vulnerable. The following attacks are well known for breaching and causing irreparable damage:

Phishing / Spear Phishing

Phishing involves a cybercriminal sending communication, usually emails, to company employees: mimicking a trusted source.

These emails prompt the employee to provide their credentials or download malicious software disguised as a legitimate file. The employee accidentally provides system access because the email is from a colleague.

Zero Day Attacks

When a network, piece of software, or hardware has a vulnerability, a zero-day attack occurs before the problem is fixed.

Even though a fix has been released, hackers may still exploit the vulnerability. Organisations frequently underestimate the threat posed by zero-day attacks or take too long to update or repair their systems.

Brute Force Attacks / Password Spraying

Brute force attacks when a hacker enters a large number of simple phrases and common passwords for a single company account. They’ll get in if they’re lucky and you don’t have a complex password.

Denial-of-Service (DoS) Attacks

Denial-of-Service attacks bombard a device or network with traffic. Overwhelmed, a system may crash or — as it manages all the hacker’s requests — be unable to address legitimate traffic from employees or customers.

Ways to Prevent Critical Infrastructure Cyberattacks

Foster a culture of cybersecurity

Phishing and zero-day assaults affect your system when a single employee downloads a file containing malware, accidentally gives their login information to a hacker, or neglects to patch or update their equipment.

Additionally, your system is only as secure as the weakest password due to brute force assaults and password spraying.

Cybersecurity is not simply the responsibility of IT staff. Everyone has to be informed on the latest developments in cybercrime, taught about typical attacks and weaknesses, and reminded to update and safeguard their devices.

Implement cyber hygiene best practices

· Anti-Malware: Malicious software is eliminated by anti-malware software after scanning your devices for dangers.

· SIEM (Security Information and Event Management): Guards against malicious software and keeps track of network activities and access.

· Firewall: A firewall is a digital barrier that analyses, assesses, and filters incoming communication between internal systems and the outside world.

· Trust Zones: Extra firewalls created for your internal network to safeguard critical data that needs more protection

· Encryption: Encrypt data on your devices and the communications between them, which is especially important for IoT systems like smart grids and smart metres.

· Multi-factor authentication: Employees must enter a network or system using more than just a password when using multi-factor authentication.

Invest in both digital and physical security

There is a cost associated with putting best practices into place and creating a culture of cybersecurity, of course. However, as hackers probe your IT/OT networks for weaknesses, you will also need to invest in physical protection and grow your cybersecurity staff.

Invest in expanding security assets and improving the cybersecurity team.

Audit devices, assets, and other network components

You can’t protect what you don’t know about, so it’s important to audit all the devices within your network.

Importance of Transparency

Because openness fosters confidence, organisations have a duty to share information on security flaws openly. Every firm is susceptible to cyberattacks, and since the public significantly relies on the services provided by critical infrastructure networks, there would be a great deal of risk if bad actors could access them. When an intrusion happens, security teams are responsible for communicating as much information as they can about any vulnerabilities they find to assist others in staying safe from the same risks.

Conclusion

Cybersecurity should be front and centre as critical infrastructure providers enter the 21st century. Collaboration between businesses, government, and the general public is the only way critical infrastructure can combat the rising ccyber threat Security teams may increase their collective strength, learn from past mistakes, and eventually establish trust by cooperating with one another and sharing information freely. This is essential for companies managing our most vital infrastructure.

What is BugBase?

BugBase is a curated marketplace for ethical hackers that helps businesses and startups set up bug bounty programs. It is India’s first consolidated bug bounty platform, which assists organizations in staying safe by providing an all-in-one platform for continuous and comprehensive security testing.

Through BugBase registering and setting up your organisation’s bug bounty program is no less than a breeze. We also provide hackers and security professionals with the platform to directly get connected with organizations that have set up their bug bounty programs and get rewarded for the risks and vulnerabilities they find.

Thank you for being part of our BugFam! Stay up to date on our latest posts and hope you had a great week!

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Cheers,

BugBase Team

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BugBase - The BugGyaan Blog

India’s first consolidated Bug Bounty Platform’s technical blog by Aditya Arun Iyer