The Biggest Challenges to Industrial Cybersecurity in 2020

Ransomware, IIoT and supply chain are among the most pressing Industrial Cybersecurity Challenges in 2020.  Last year was a challenging one for industrial cybersecurity as thousands of operations around the globe found themselves under attack. The year saw the rise of new cyber attack techniques, leaving critical infrastructure operators increasingly on edge. And the rapidly changing technical landscape has forced cybersecurity teams to work tirelessly to improve their defenses.

In 2019, the Ponemon Institute, a research center dedicated to privacy, data protection and information security policy, released a report looking at cybersecurity in operational technology. According to the report, over the last two years, 90 percent of OT organizations have experienced at least one damaging attack. And that trend seems likely to continue.

Now just a few weeks into the new year, 2020 seems poised to present similar challenges for OT organizations. Here’s a look at the biggest challenges facing industrial cybersecurity in 2020.

Ransomware

Perhaps the biggest threat in 2019 involved ransomware attacks on industrial and manufacturing operations. Dozens of ransomware attacks caused long-term damage to systems controlling physical equipment and led several production plants to switch to manual control.

In the United States, the city of New Orleans was victim to a ransomware attack in December that forced the city’s mayor to declare a state of emergency. The city was only the latest victim in a ransomware campaign directed at city infrastructures across the country.

Ransomware is predicted to remain a prevalent threat in the months ahead, according to a recent report by Check Point Software Technologies.

“Ransomware attacks were launched this year as a lethal mass weapon that can easily shut down large-scale organizations, cities, local governments and healthcare organizations,” says Lotem Finkelstein, Check Point’s head of threat intelligence. “New Orleans mayor declared a state of emergency in the wake of massive cyber attack. This reflects a gradual escalation  in what we expect will get even worse in upcoming years. In light of such events, it’s clearly evident that organizations must adopt a strategy of prevention and not merely rely on detection or remediation.”

Industrial Internet of Things

Whether private or public, a large number of plants around the world now rely on industrial IoT. This technology includes access control panels, video surveillance and intrusion detection systems. IIoT allows plant operators to manage operations remotely and monitor operating conditions in real time. However, these increasingly connected systems do come with risks and Check Point predicts IIoT challenges will continue in 2020.

“From IP cameras and smart elevators to medical devices and industrial controllers, IoT devices are inherently vulnerable and easy to hack. Moreover, most of these connected devices are not at all protected as they’re connected to corporate networks without anyone’s knowledge,” says Itai Greenberg, Check Point’s vice president of product management. “This security gap increases the risk of a successful cyber attack where critical devices can be shut down, damaged, manipulated, or used to infect other systems on the network. Now is the time to take action and secure IoT the same way we secure IT.”

Supply Chain

Vulnerabilities within an industrial operation’s supply chain can leave it open to a cyber attack. The supply chain presents an appealing target to hackers because it provides them with an opportunity to infiltrate multiple organizations by exploiting a single vulnerability. Many have predicted that supply chain security issues will remain a challenge in the years to come and as a result the United States recently formed the Information and Communications Technology Supply Chain Risk Management Task Force to address the issue.

“In search of potential attack entry points, threat actors have shifted their strategies to locate vulnerable organizations that are single step away from their main target. Now, service providers and business partners of primary targets are also victimized,” the Check Point report says. “Extending the circle of targets to include victims outside of the organization makes it far harder to protect assets.”

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