Measures to Prevent Hackers from Targeting Industrial Control Systems in the Digital Age

May 2021 | Article

measures to prevent hackers from targeting industrial control systems in the digital age

Summary: As cyber threats targeting manufacturing systems continue to rise, organisations need to be more proactive in securing their data and other online assets. By investing in managed security solutions, they can avoid the higher costs of damage caused by sophisticated attacks on work systems and digitally controlled operations.

Today, when a majority of manufacturing companies have an extensive digital presence, malware and ransomware are no longer back-office IT issues. Cybercriminals have turned them into an evolving business model that can generate continual revenues. And they are increasingly targeting oil refineries, power grids and plants manufacturing essential goods.

The cyberattack that shut down Colonial Pipeline Co,¹ the largest fuel pipeline in the United States, in May 2021 is a key example of how cyber attacks can cripple industrial operations. Small scale manufacturers who have started adopting IoT systems to track their assets and gain actionable insights on their operational technologies are more vulnerable to cybercrimes as many of them lack effective cybersecurity tools to identify and stop threats.

How the modus operandi has changed over the years

When manufacturers initially found malware targeting their control systems, hackers used a ‘spray and pray’ approach. It involved spraying out multiple malicious download links or portable drive-based malware attacks that caused users to spread ransomware unknowingly. While this generated quick payouts, ransom amounts were relatively small – between $250 and $1000.

Today, cyberattacks have become sophisticated and hackers know it is more lucrative to directly target weak legacy systems or proprietary applications of individual enterprises. After shutting down production lines or hijacking major operations, they demand amounts as high as $100,000 or more and usually in cryptocurrency. In many cases, despite ransom payment, they keep businesses on the hook longer by infiltrating multiple systems.

Cryptolocker style attacks that encrypt files and hold them for ransom are some of the most common threats to manufacturers. They bypass basic antivirus systems and firewalls. Another kind of threat involves using crypto-mining or botnet software to hijack a part of the organisation’s computing power to create a long-term financial stream instead of getting just a one-time ransom from the victim.

Once they identify a manufacturing company using digital tools to manage its daily processes, hackers do extensive research to know more about the business and determine how they can attack a weak online network. They also study the target organisation’s communications to check if they have been tracked.

What can you do to avert such attacks?

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – Benjamin Franklin

The costs of incident response, remediation and rebuilding digital manufacturing systems are far greater than those involved in cybersecurity measures.

At Tata Tele Business Services, we help businesses understand their specific cyber risks and implement appropriate security solutions to mitigate the chances of an attack on the devices used to control their operational systems.

The cybersecurity measures that we recommend for manufacturers include:

Email Security

TTBS cloud-based email security solutions provides security across all your email platforms, including Microsoft Exchange, Office 365 and on-premise servers. It has been built using FirstWave Cloud Technology’s ESPTM email software technology, Cisco-based ESA/IronPort and AMP technologies that have received positive reviews from Gartner, IDC & Radicati.

With secure email accounts, your employees can prevent emails carrying malware, viruses and ransomware from entering their Inbox. The solution also filters out spam and counters advanced persistent threats such as spear phishing, whaling, typo domain and spoofing attacks.

This tailored cybersecurity tool is easy to deploy and works unobtrusively in the background. It also offers analytical reports on the threats it mitigates.

Endpoint Security

By deploying our endpoint security solutions, manufacturers can secure their digital devices’ endpoints to protect their data and system controls from ransomware, malware, spyware and phishing attacks. The solution offers advanced web filtering, email filtering, antivirus and firewall protection.

With this endpoint service, your employees can access work files and view alerts sent by IoT systems on their devices without the risk of cybercriminals snooping on them. The data becomes more secure and you can avoid down-time due to a compromised system.

TTBS endpoint security solution can be configured on digital devices without advanced IT knowledge and in a cost-effective manner.

Multifactor Authentication

Combining multiple levels of security to allow access to business accounts may seem inconvenient to most users. However, this inconvenience pales in significance when compared to the value of systems that multifactor authentication (MFA) protects.

TTBS helps your enterprise access its online accounts and enterprise apps securely with its MFA solution. A zero-trust security tool, TTBS MFA is quick and easy to set up on any device. It also allows you to choose authentication methods that best suit your workflows.

By ensuring that users who access your business data are who they claim to be, you can stop maleficent actors from manipulating servers, networks and software that are usually protected only by a password.

With TTBS MFA, it also becomes easier to monitor the integrity of devices used for controlling your manufacturing operations and helps you implement tailored cybersecurity policies.

Virtual Firewall

Firewalls enable businesses to check the intent of different kinds of traffic, web content and applications reaching their networks. It is a commonly used measure to prevent cyber threats.

The TTBS virtual firewall solution is an advanced version of this traditional IT security service. Our tool combines application awareness with deep-packet inspection to give you a stronghold over the integrity of your applications and block malicious threats in real-time.

It also reduces response times against potential cyberattacks by keeping you aware of the issues that often go undetected by conventional firewalls. The virtual firewall also streamlines the network setup and lets you customise your security controls as per your company’s requirements.

Web Security

With TTBS web security solution, your organisation gets complete visibility of online activities on the digital devices used by team members at any location – both on and off the LAN. It stops cyber threats before they touch your network endpoints.

Our web security has been designed to determine the purpose of numerous web requests, URLs and files that your employees receive via emails and messaging apps on their work systems. The content is then allowed to be accessed, blocked or sent for detailed inspection depending on how safe or malicious it appears.

Like other cybersecurity tools offered by TTBS, web security also facilitates policy implementation with comprehensive reports. It is non-intrusive and easy to use across devices.

Secure Cloud Connect

As the increasing workload of manufacturing companies shifts to cloud platforms, TTBS has also tailored a solution to make this digitalisation resource more reliable and valuable for its customers.

In addition to cybersecurity solutions, we offer secure cloud connect solutions that allows you to connect to leading public cloud services over MPLS. It makes using Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, Oracle Cloud Services (OCS) and IBM Softlayer more secure.

TTBS secure connect delivers a consistent and optimised network experience by helping you avoid the vulnerabilities of public internet connectivity.

As you ponder on the need for security measures in the digital-first world, it is prudent to gauge the cumulative cost of a cyber attack on your organisation, revenue loss due to plant shutdown, cost to rebuild IT infrastructure, loss of customer confidence and damage to brand image.

On weighing the pros and cons of being proactive versus reactive to a cyber attack, you can quickly see how prevention is better than cure.

TTBS helps you build cyber resilience from the inside out so that you can focus on business innovation and growth. Contact us to know more about our online security solutions.

Source: 1- https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/08/us/politics/cyberattack-colonial-pipeline.html

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