Industrial networks need enhanced security due to increasing attack scale

Industrial networks need enhanced security due to increasing attack scale

Protecting Critical Information Infrastructures in an Evolving Threat Landscape

Critical Information Infrastructures

As nations around the world move towards common standards for their critical information infrastructures (CII) and operational technology (OT) systems, the need to strengthen their security becomes increasingly important. The convergence of digitalization and connectivity has led to automation in sectors such as power, oil and gas, water, and manufacturing, resulting in enhanced efficiency through standardized protocols and operating systems1. However, this move towards homogeneity also provides hackers with a greater ability to scale up their attacks, making OT networks more vulnerable to security breaches2.

According to Robert M. Lee, CEO of cybersecurity vendor Dragos, the increasing homogeneity of OT systems will lead to the development of more repeatable and cross-industry OT attack toolkits, further increasing the risk of cyberattacks3. In fact, the number of state-actor groups focused on OT and industrial control systems has significantly increased over the past few years4. With the potential consequences of compromised OT systems being much more severe than that of IT systems, it is imperative for governments to prioritize the security and resilience of their CII and OT sectors5.

In response to this evolving threat landscape, countries like Singapore have been stepping up their efforts to strengthen OT security. The city-state updated its cybersecurity strategy in 2021 with a heightened focus on OT, providing a framework to build up skillsets and technical competencies6. However, the Chief Executive of Singapore’s Cyber Security Agency (CSA), David Koh, believes that more needs to be done to address the constantly evolving threats faced by OT sectors7.

Koh emphasizes the importance of innovation and creativity in developing novel solutions to tackle emerging cybersecurity challenges8. Threat actors have consistently demonstrated improved capabilities to conduct malicious activities against OT systems, and any successful compromise could severely impact national security, public safety, and the economy9. Singapore recognizes the urgent need to enhance OT security capabilities and has partnered with cybersecurity vendor Dragos to collaborate on threat intelligence, risk assessment, incident response, and training10.

To further strengthen OT security expertise, Singapore is also working with the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to conduct a four-day training course on OT security, involving participants from Asean, Bangladesh, and Maldives11. The training program focuses on securing OT networks and CII systems, incorporating theoretical concepts as well as hands-on experiences with real-world scenarios12. By fostering cooperation and knowledge sharing, Singapore aims to build a robust cybersecurity ecosystem that can effectively respond to emerging threats13.

The unique characteristics of OT systems necessitate a different approach to security compared to traditional IT environments. As highlighted by Robert M. Lee, blindly copying and pasting IT security measures into OT systems can lead to disruption and compromise the integrity of OT systems14. Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information, Josephine Teo, points out that while OT systems were traditionally air-gapped and managed separately from internet-facing IT systems, the acceleration of digitalization in OT industries has led to their integration, making them more susceptible to cyberattacks15. Therefore, Singapore’s approach to OT security focuses on technology, talent, and collaboration16.

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning present both threats and opportunities in the cybersecurity landscape. Cybercriminals can leverage AI to craft more convincing phishing emails, but AI can also enhance defensive capabilities and provide better encryption methods for IT and OT systems17. Singapore aims to harness these technologies to improve collective defenses against cyber threats18. Additionally, building interdisciplinary expertise and fostering collaboration between government, industry, and academia is essential to effectively respond to emerging threats19.

International collaboration is crucial in the creation of technical standards and fostering public trust in the industry’s products and services20. Singapore recognizes that cybersecurity is a global effort and calls for unity in combating common adversaries21. By prioritizing the security of critical information infrastructures and operational technology, governments can create a resilient cybersecurity ecosystem that can adapt and counter the evolving threat landscape effectively.

With cyber threats becoming increasingly sophisticated, it is crucial for nations to continually invest in the security and resiliency of their critical information infrastructures and operational technology. By staying proactive and embracing innovation, countries like Singapore are paving the way for a safer digital future.

  1. Source: ZDNet↩︎

  2. Source: ZDNet↩︎

  3. Source: ZDNet↩︎

  4. Source: ZDNet↩︎

  5. Source: ZDNet↩︎

  6. Source: ZDNet↩︎

  7. Source: ZDNet↩︎

  8. Source: ZDNet↩︎

  9. Source: ZDNet↩︎

  10. Source: ZDNet↩︎

  11. Source: ZDNet↩︎

  12. Source: ZDNet↩︎

  13. Source: ZDNet↩︎

  14. Source: ZDNet↩︎

  15. Source: ZDNet↩︎

  16. Source: ZDNet↩︎

  17. Source: ZDNet↩︎

  18. Source: ZDNet↩︎

  19. Source: ZDNet↩︎

  20. Source: ZDNet↩︎

  21. Source: ZDNet↩︎