Think Globally, Act Locally
“…The caretaker was crucified for sleeping at his post
They’re refusing to be pacified it’s him they blame the most
The watchdog’s got rabies, the foreman’s got fleas
And everyone’s concerned about Industrial Disease…”
--Dire Straits, Industrial Control
No one in his or her right mind would want to be responsible for a business, city, or government going down because of lax network security. For those not immersed in the security world, it’s hard to imagine a city being brought to its knees by a mouse and a keyboard. Yet that scenario is beginning to become more of a reality than anyone would like to acknowledge.
Just recently, Reuters reported that a cyber security official with the United States government indicated a rise in attacks on industrial control system networks—simply because they’re exposed to the internet. In the era of IoT, that paints a pretty scary picture. In fact, Gartner predicts that by year-end 2018, 20 percent of smart buildings will have suffered from digital vandalism. Clearly, sticking our heads in the sand is not an option. As IT and security professionals, we need to identify strategies to shore up our networks.
According to a recent article in Engadget, attackers in the Ukraine were able to break into power station computers by tricking employees into opening infected Microsoft Office documents. Once the malware-embedded files were activated, a malicious program was released. As a result, hundreds of homes lost power. While this attack created disruption, the potential for more serious attacks is real. For instance in late 2014, a German steel mill was breached, in which hackers rendered the control systems for a blast furnace useless. The furnace could not be shut down properly, resulting in serious damage.
All of this points to the fact that it’s more important than ever to carefully monitor your network for any irregularities. Just like with health care, early detection is everything. The sooner you’re able to spot unusual activity, the more options you have to contain the issue and prevent further damage. Testing before deployments also helps to ensure things will work as expected and that you’re not leaving your network open to vulnerabilities. The consequences of not doing so can make you an unwitting accomplice in an attack that can go way beyond a down network and dropped productivity to one that impacts business, community, state, and even beyond.