Mazhar Hamayun, Regional Architect and member of the Office of the CTO at Check Point.
The lifeblood of our contemporary world, critical infrastructure serves as a pulsating nerve center that powers our society, delivering indispensable services to citizens and catalyzing economic growth and development. This vital network encompasses the robust power grids, intricate transportation systems, cutting-edge telecommunications networks, financial pillars, and life-saving healthcare facilities that form the fabric of our existence.
Given its significance, critical infrastructure is meticulously governed by a tapestry of stringent regulatory standards, designed to fortify its security, resilience, and unyielding reliability. Alas, despite these rigorous measures, the sobering reality remains that the majority of these indispensable systems are susceptible to a myriad of pernicious threats – insidious cyber attacks, relentless physical onslaughts, merciless natural disasters, and the capricious whims of human error.
It is therefore of utmost urgency that we remain steadfast in our commitment to shielding these critical infrastructure systems from the menacing specter of potential attacks and looming threats, ensuring that the essential veins of our society continue to pump with vigor and unwavering reliability.
Core sectors of critical infrastructure
The specific sectors that are considered critical infrastructure may vary based on a given country or region, but generally, they include the following: The Chemical Sector, the Commercial Facilities Sector, The Communications Sector, The Critical Manufacturing Sector, The Dams Sector, the Defense Industrial Base Sector, The Emergency Services Sector, the Energy Sector, the Financial Services Sector, the Food and Agriculture Sector, the Government Facilities Sector, the Healthcare and Public Health Sector, the Information Technology Sector, the Nuclear Reactors, Materials and Waste Sector, the Transportation Systems Sector, and the Waste and Wastewater Systems Sector.
Current state of critical infrastructure protection
The current state of critical infrastructure protection varies across different countries and sectors. While some countries prioritize critical infrastructure protection and invest heavily in securing this infrastructure, other countries do not give it adequate attention, leaving critical infrastructure vulnerable to various threats.
Challenges in securing critical infrastructure
Securing critical infrastructure is a challenging task for several reasons. To begin with, critical infrastructure systems are highly interconnected and interdependent, which means that a disruption in one critical system can trigger a chain reaction or a series of failures across other systems. Secondly, critical infrastructure systems are often built based on industrial systems created years ago that were not designed with security in mind. As a result, they may have vulnerabilities that are difficult to detect and remediate. Thirdly, critical infrastructure systems are subject to a wide range of threats, including cyber attacks, physical attacks, natural disasters, and human errors, making it challenging to protect them from all possible risks.
Best practices for improving critical infrastructure security
To improve critical infrastructure security, consider leveraging the following best practices:
1. Risk assessment: Conducting a risk assessment is a crucial first step in securing critical infrastructure. The process involves identifying and analyzing the threats and vulnerabilities based on software and systems used in these critical infrastructure systems.
2. Threat intelligence: Gathering and analyzing threat intelligence is essential for identifying potential threats to critical infrastructure systems. This process involves monitoring the threat landscape, including cyber threats, physical threats, and natural threats.
3. Access control: Implementing strong access control systems can help prevent unauthorized access to critical infrastructure systems and allows access to only authorized staff. Access control includes implementing strong authentication measures, such as multi-factor authentication and limiting access to authorized personnel based on their jobs and duties.
4. Cyber security measures: Implement cyber security measures, such as firewalls, to secure the perimeter. Implement strong intrusion prevention systems, and implement strong encryption protocols. This can help protect critical infrastructure systems from cyber attacks.
5. Physical security measures: Implementing strong and strict physical security measures, such as entry exit checks, surveillance cameras, security guards, and access control systems, can help protect critical infrastructure from physical attacks.
6. Incident response planning: Developing and implementing an incident response plan is crucial for responding to security incidents. Conducting a routine red team exercise to ensure that an incident response plan is effective is a key to success against an attack.
It is essential to secure critical infrastructure systems from potential threats. By implementing best practices such as risk assessments, the collection of threat intelligence, access control, cyber security measures, physical security measures, and incident response planning, we can improve critical infrastructure security and ensure the resilience and reliability of these essential systems.
For more insights from Mazhar Hamayun, please see CyberTalk.org’s past coverage. Lastly, to receive more cutting-edge cyber security news, best practices and analyses, please sign up for the CyberTalk.org newsletter.