Over the past few years, the world has witnessed several cyber-attacks on critical infrastructures with devastating effects globally. Suppose we take the example of the most recent critical infrastructure attack on the [Colonial Pipeline](https://whatis.techtarget.com/feature/Colonial-Pipeline-hack-explained-Everything-you-need-to-know) that caused the gasoline prices in the county to rise and even affect the logistics of goods and food, causing massive tensions on the west coast of the country. Cybercriminals are aware that attacking the critical infrastructure can prove a Jackpot. The organization or the government is under constant pressure to provide essential services like food, transport, health care, etc., to the population.
Not every infrastructure within an industry sector is critical to a nation or region. It is essential to identify several critical infrastructures necessary to maintain continuous services or functions and to be vulnerable to criminals' threats or hazards. Prioritizing the allocation of available resources to that crucial critical infrastructure can help [mitigate risks and threats from scratch] enhance the nation's security. There are four lifeline functions based on the priority– transportation, water, energy, and communications, which means that their operations are so critical that a disruption in one of these functions can cause instability in the security and elasticity of critical infrastructure across several interdependent sectors. For example, the energy sectors provide essential power and fuels to the communication, transportation, and water sectors, and, in return, the energy sector relies on them for transportation of fuel, generation of electricity with the help of water for producing and cooling purposes and communication for operations in infrastructure. The below-mentioned sectors were officially listed as critical infrastructure sectors. In addition, there are significant discussions to add even the Election Voting System as a critical infrastructure sector.
- Chemical Sector
- Commercial Facilities Sector
- Communications Sector
- Critical Manufacturing Sector
- Dams Sector
- Defence Industrial Base Sector
- Emergency Services Sector
- Energy Sector
- Financial Services Sector
- Food and Agriculture Sector
- Government Facilities Sector
- Healthcare and Public Health Sector
- Information Technology Sector
- Nuclear Reactors, Materials and Waste Sector
- Transportation Systems Sector
- Water and Wastewater Systems Sector
Most countries have access to electricity, clean drinking water, transportation networks, and many other critical infrastructure services at the verge of increasing cyber-attacks. We can have devastating consequences of these threats, threatening global economies and entire communities. Protecting critical infrastructure relies on solid partnerships between governments and commercial organizations and the solutions used to manage and implement these initiatives. Recognizing the risks that are capable enough to threaten critical infrastructure systems' integrity is a crucial task. For example, if we are hit by a system or network security issue, the first thing that comes to our minds is hackers or terrorist threats. Still, several other threats could have caused the problem, such as equipment failure, human error, and natural causes. Therefore, we should enhance ourselves and the security solutions we select to detect and identify risks to consider all possible threats to a particular failure rather than sticking to a few of them.
As technology is advancing, so is the infrastructure of critical services. There has been a tremendous increase in cloud services and widespread global adoption of remote work culture since the pandemic, which has posed a challenge in protecting the critical infrastructure from the attacks or threats exposed. The attacking surface for the cybercriminals has also grown along with the blending of traditional IT systems and operational technology (OT) networks. The attackers can quickly enter the network of critical infrastructure with the help of tactics – such as a malicious email or a vulnerable remote access application. Let's discuss in detail the challenges faced by security infrastructure.
1. Internal Resources
Lack of internal resources has always been a significant issue in the security industry, and it continues to be so. Many organizations and businesses lack trained security professionals to meet their security needs. Surveys are stating that there are almost 8 – 9 million unfilled security-related jobs globally. These are just the number before organizations and businesses adopted remote work; probably now, these numbers would have doubled.
2. Breach Detection
Organizations need continuous monitoring of their IT and OT systems to look for changes that could point to a security incident. Organizations commonly use agent-based solutions to monitor their IT assets, and that they, therefore, might be tempted to extend agent-based Detection to their OT networks. However, this kind of breach detection is useless on the units to safeguard the critical infrastructure. Furthermore, agents require downtime to be updated or installed; such downtimes in the absence of compensating technologies could undermine the economy, national security, and public safety of the country it serves.
3. Threat Landscape
If we compare, the OT threat landscape is larger than the IT threat landscape; most devices deployed in the OT are not changed as frequently as in IT. Many organizations that help to operate critical infrastructure have legacy systems. Due to the projection in cost, most organizations resist upgrading their OT technologies. Moreover, they can't simply find a new control system; they also need to decommission the old infrastructure and invest in new network infrastructure to support it. The major problem is that these legacy systems are often years, if not decades old. These old infrastructures also use outdated network protocols for communication and lack remote upgrade mechanisms. Due to this, organizations leave themselves exposed to malicious actors exploiting a vulnerability within their legacy systems.
4. Cybersecurity Skill Gaps
Organizations don't have the required professional talent to secure their critical infrastructure. The skills gap is getting wider and wider with each passing day. The demand for cybersecurity experts has only doubled after the pandemic. Studies show that 83% of security experts felt more overworked going into 2020 than they did in the previous years. These studies also stated a tremendous understaffing of specialists in the industry. With fewer security experts, organizations and businesses are more likely to find themselves reacting to security incidents rather than detecting or preventing them in the first place.
5. Situational Awareness
All the above challenges highlight the need for organizations and businesses to be proactive about their infrastructure security. They should be capable enough to monitor their industrial environments for threats and spot them before these can puncture the critical infrastructure devices. In addition, the employees should be aware of basic security stands to be performed and the steps to handle this to a certain degree before handing it over to the security teams. In other words, people should have situational Awareness to strengthen the security of the organizations or businesses networks.
Many businesses are faced with securing the organization or company with limited security resources due to growing network complexity and an evolving cyber threat landscape. However, modern technology has developed state of the art capabilities in Managed Detection & Response [MDR] and Extended Detection & Response [XDR] to provide response benefits and defend the vast critical infrastructure, but it depends on the organization's needs; they must determine the best option for its security and business needs. For example, an organization lacking necessary in-house security specialization/expertise will be served better by MDR. But if the organization has a mature but overwhelmed Security operation center, it would benefit more from the force multiplication provided by Extended Detection and Response.
Benefits of an MDR Suite
- 24/7 Monitoring: Since cyberattacks can happen anytime, constant protection is crucial for rapid response to threats. The MDR providers offer round-the-clock monitoring and protection.
- Proactive Approach: MDR offers proactive security services, such as vulnerability assessments and threat hunting. With the identification and closure of security holes, MDR helps to reduce cyber risk and the likelihood of a successful cybersecurity incident.
- Excellent Intelligence: Broad and deep visibility capabilities into client networks are provided by the MDRs. This enables them to develop and use threat intelligence during incident detection and response.
- Experienced Analysts: MDR provides customers with skilled cybersecurity professionals to shorten the skill gaps. This helps meet the headcount and ensure that customers have access to specialized skill sets when they need them.
- Vulnerability Management: Due to the complexity and time consumption of Vulnerability management, many companies fall behind. MDR providers can help with patching, identifying vulnerable systems, and installing the latest updates.
- Advanced Compliance: MDR providers have expertise in regulatory compliance, and their solutions are designed in such a way that it meets the requirements of rules and regulations.
Benefits of an XDR Suite
Extended into the investigation, Detection, and response to third-party data sources. Enable behavioral analytics on logs collected from third-party firewalls while integrating third-party alerts into a unified incident view and root cause analysis for faster, more effective investigations. Blocking attacks with the help of powerful endpoint protection: Leveraging AI-based regional analysis and Behavioural Threat Protection to stop malware, exploits, and file-less attacks to the organization.
- Improved visibility across the network, endpoint, and cloud data: Collection of data from Palo Alto Networks and third-party tools to detect, triage, investigate, hunt, and respond to threats.
- Ability to detect sophisticated attacks automatically around the clock.
- Investigation simplified with automated root cause analysis and unified incident engine, resulting in a tremendous reduction in alerts and lowering the skill required to triage alerts.
- Eradication of threats without disrupting businesses. Crackdown attacks while avoiding user or system downtime.
- Ability to eliminate advanced threats such as malicious insiders, ransomware, external threats, policy violations, file-less and memory-only attacks, and advanced zero-day malware.
- Ability to detect Indicator of Compromise (IOCs) to disrupt every stage of an attack and prioritize analysis with incident scoring.
- Ability to fleetly recover from an attack by removing malicious files and restoring damaged files and registry keys.
Benefits of an MSSP
The primary purpose of MSSP is to replace an organization's internal security team partially or in the entirety. By partnering with an MSSP, an Organization receives several benefits:
- Filling Vacant Roles: The cybersecurity skills gap is a significant problem these days. Thus, filling vacant positions on an organization's internal security team can be difficult and expensive. Partnership with an MSSP allows the organization to serve its internal security team's required skills gap or replace it entirely with appropriate candidates.
- Accessibility to Specialist Expertise: Organizations require access to specialized cybersecurity expertise (such as threat or malware analysts or forensics specialists) from time to time. An MSSP makes the expertise required of the in-house security team available.
- Round-the-Clock Protection: Cyberattacks can occur at any time of the day, not particularly during business hours. Therefore, the MSSP should provide a 24/7 Security Operations Centre, continuously monitoring and responding to potential cyberattacks.
- Increased Security Maturity: Many organizations, tiny and medium-sized businesses, lack the level of cybersecurity maturity they should possess. With the MSSP, these businesses can deploy a mature cybersecurity solution within no time.
- Solution Configuration and Management: Cybersecurity solutions configured and managed by an expert are the most effective. Partnership with the MSSP benefits the organization with expert security configuration and management without paying to have the required talent in-house.
- Compliance Support: New data protection regulations are growing daily (such as the GDPR and the CCPA) with existing laws (like HIPAA and PCI DSS). The MSSP can help with the collection of data and the generation of reports for showcasing compliance during company or external audits.
Given the critical nature and the vastness of the operating environment, the monitoring and response requirements are highly resource-intensive. Thus, they demand a careful configuration of all service capabilities to their best. Therefore, it makes complete business sense to leverage the expertise of the Cybsercurity industry itself to build Industrial Resilience.