The modern city: the key to securing critical infrastructure

By Bede Hackney, Country Manager ANZ, Tenable

Credit: ID 72385691 © Mike_kiev | Dreamstime.com

The importance of securing critical infrastructure is of little surprise to industries such as energy, utilities and manufacturing. As the number of cyber attacks continues to grow globally, so do the threats targeting operational technologies.

Meanwhile, the deployment of security technologies to combat the rising risk just isn’t keeping pace. It’s becoming incredibly difficult for organisations to see where they are vulnerable and protect systems and ultimately, the citizens depending on them.

Ensuring the viability of critical infrastructure

With the rise of the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), including smart sensors and information communication technologies driving smart city transformations, organisations are grappling with newly internet-connected systems. Once isolated from the outside world, these systems are now high-value targets for attackers.

Meanwhile, the modern attack surface is continuously evolving. Critical industries such as energy, utilities and manufacturing are facing an ever growing challenge with consequences that range from a minor grid blackout to a major network outage.

Identifying vulnerabilities and improving visibility can help reduce the chance of a successful attack. But with such mass opportunity for a cyber attack,  the battle can often be knowing how to prioritise.

The solution begins with ensuring you have continuous visibility into your level of exposure, so your organisation can detect and address vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.

Understand your level of exposure across IT and OT

Both IT and OT assets across converged environments present equally important cybersecurity risks. Organisations who fail to understand this will never gain the critical visibility required to understand and reduce their cyber exposure.

Organisations should seek to establish a unified, holistic view of both IT and OT assets. A single pane of glass that enables organisations to monitor and address their entire attack surface, from supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems to IT servers, is critical. This visibility is also key to prioritising and remediating the vulnerabilities that pose the greatest risk.

For many industrial environments, traditional IT active scanning techniques pose the risk of disrupting OT networks. Where possible, passive monitoring solutions may be more suitable as they don’t interact with sensitive devices, meaning crucial capabilities such as real-time communications and operating systems aren’t impacted.

The road ahead: Securing modern cities

The term “smart city” is rapidly rolling off the tongues of town and city planners, authorities and the like. Innovation in the smart city sector is allowing us to manage physical assets, infrastructure, connectivity and information services that connect and affect everyday citizens on a daily basis. Smart cities bring an excitement of the role that interconnectivity can play in our individual lives, making navigating our local towns more efficient and safe.

But with increasing connectivity comes new risks and areas of exposure. There’s no doubt that attackers will continue to target critical infrastructure, which means we need to become more diligent in how we secure these systems..

Converged environments that contain a mix of IT and OT devices and systems, from smart city technology to water treatment plants, demand an all encompassing approach to cybersecurity, allowing organisations to accurately manage, measure and reduce cyber security risk holistically. Keeping a constant, close eye on those risks is absolutely key in today’s smart city, and for our cities of the future.

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Tags cyber securityInternet of Things (IoT)TenableIndustrial Internet of Things

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