The growing complexity of cyber threats, coupled with the rapid digital transformation of businesses, has underscored the importance of cyber readiness. It’s no longer a question of if a cyberattack will occur, but when.
As highlighted in the 2023 State of Operational Technology and Cybersecurity Report, 32% of OT organizations reported being victims of ransomware attack (unchanged from 2022). Intrusions from malware and phishing increased by 12% and 9%, respectively. These stark figures underscore the urgent need for organizations to bolster their cyber readiness.
Cyber readiness is an organization’s preparedness to prevent, respond to, and recover from cyberattacks.
In the face of these challenges, achieving cyber readiness is not just about implementing robust security measures. It also includes understanding the evolving threat landscape and being prepared to respond swiftly and effectively when an incident occurs.
As we delve deeper into this topic, we will explore the three essential pillars of cyber readiness:
- Robust cyber hygiene
- Proactive vulnerability management
- Comprehensive incident response planning
These pillars serve as a roadmap for organizations seeking to enhance their resilience in the face of cyber threats.
The Three Essential Pillars of Cyber Readiness
Pillar 1: Robust Cyber Hygiene
Robust cyber hygiene, the first pillar of cyber readiness, remains critical in today’s digital landscape. Survey findings demonstrate that cybersecurity solutions greatly benefit OT professionals, with a majority (76%) acknowledging their positive impact on efficiency (67%) and flexibility (68%). Despite these advantages, the data also reveals a significant hurdle: the proliferation of multiple cybersecurity solutions, known as solution sprawl, which complicates their efforts to maintain a comprehensive level of protection.
To address this complexity, basic cyber hygiene measures have become paramount for critical infrastructure organizations. These measures include:
- Regularly updating and patching software: Industrial systems often rely on specialized software that can have vulnerabilities if not regularly updated. Ensuring these systems are patched and up-to-date is crucial in preventing potential cyberattacks.
- Using strong, unique passwords: Access to ICS or OT systems should be secured with strong, unique passwords to prevent unauthorized access.
- Regularly backing up data: In the context of critical infrastructure, data loss can have severe consequences. Regular backups can help protect against data loss in the event of a cyberattack.
Basic cyber hygiene practices significantly bolster the security of industrial systems, and it is encouraging to note that an increasing number of organizations are cognizant of their OT cybersecurity capabilities.
In addition to these basic measures, several key strategies are critical in OT systems, including:
- Implementing multifactor authentication to add an extra layer of security.
- Adopting the zero-trust network access model, which is vital for securing ICS and OT systems.
- Emphasizing secure software development practices to proactively identify and address potential vulnerabilities.
- Implementing security as code, a methodology that strengthens the resilience of industrial systems against emerging threats.
Pillar 2: Proactive Vulnerability Management
Proactive vulnerability management, the second pillar of cyber readiness, is crucial for critical infrastructure, ICS, and OT systems. It’s about preempting cybercriminals by identifying, assessing, and tackling vulnerabilities. This is even more relevant considering the decrease in companies rating their OT security as highly mature – from 21% in 2022 to 13% this year.
Key components of this approach include:
- Understanding the interconnected nature of ICS and OT systems, and the potential exposure to cyber threats if a vulnerability is exploited.
- Utilizing AI and machine learning to enhance the organization’s ability to identify and patch vulnerabilities.
- Anticipating future cyber threats through regular risk assessments, staying informed on cybersecurity research, and identifying potential weaknesses.
And what about when a cyber threat turns into a cyberattack? That’s where resilient defenses come in. Ensuring a strong security framework, including implementing measures like firewalls and intrusion detection systems, coupled with contingency plans for operations continuity, is vital.
Compliance with relevant regulations is another aspect that organizations can’t afford to overlook. The landscape of industrial cybersecurity regulations is ever-evolving. Keeping up with these changes is not just about meeting legal and ethical obligations; it’s also about understanding the shifting dynamics of cyber threats.
Pillar 3: Comprehensive Incident Response Planning
Comprehensive incident response planning, the third pillar of cyber readiness, is critical to industrial cybersecurity. It’s about having a plan in place to swiftly and effectively respond to cyber incidents, minimizing their impact and ensuring the continuity of operations.
Here are the vital components of this approach:
- Developing a robust incident response plan: A well-structured plan can significantly reduce the impact of a cyberattack, helping organizations contain the attack, minimize downtime, and protect critical data.
- Regularly testing and updating the plan: Cyber threats are constantly changing, and an incident response plan needs to evolve to remain effective. Regular testing can help identify gaps in the plan, while updating it ensures that it remains effective against the latest threats.
- Building a skilled cybersecurity team: The effectiveness of an incident response plan is only as good as the team executing it. With the current cybersecurity talent shortage, organizations face challenges in building a competent team. This involves not only hiring qualified professionals but also investing in training and development.
Fostering a culture of continuous learning: Regular training sessions can help all employees understand their role in cybersecurity and how they can contribute to the organization’s incident response efforts.
The journey towards cyber readiness involves three key steps: robust cyber hygiene, proactive vulnerability management, and comprehensive incident response planning. Each step is crucial in enhancing an organization’s resilience to cyber threats.
Robust cyber hygiene is the foundation. It’s about implementing basic security measures, such as regularly updating and patching software, using strong, unique passwords, and regularly backing up data. It’s also about leveraging advanced technologies, such as multifactor authentication and zero-trust network access, to enhance security.
Proactive vulnerability management is the next step. It’s about staying one step ahead of cyber threats by identifying, assessing, and addressing vulnerabilities before they can be exploited. It’s about leveraging automated tools, anticipating future threats, and building resilient defenses.
Comprehensive incident response planning is the final step. It’s about having a plan in place to respond swiftly and effectively to cyber incidents. It’s about regular testing and updating of the plan, building a skilled cybersecurity team, and fostering a culture of continuous learning.