Infrastructure operations reported to be high risk cybersecurity targets
The threat of cyberattacks has moved beyond the realm of pinching Social Security numbers and bank account records. With basic utilities such as electrical grids and water treatment centers operating on vulnerable networks, the possibility for a service interruption or full-scale failure is always looming. In 2011, for example, hackers breached a water utility network, gaining access to its supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system, handing control of a water pump to the criminals. Although the incident resulted in only minor damage to the water pump, it represents a more widespread threat.
The SANS Institute recently conducted a survey of SCADA system operators in order to ascertain the current views on the industry's security. Seventy percent of respondents said the risks to their systems were high to severe while 33 percent believed their systems had already experienced a security breach.
Technology Review's Martin LaMonica reviewed the study and concluded that one of the causes for these perceived vulnerabilities was the lack of proper cybersecurity installation when moving infrastructure operations to virtual networks. When initially implemented, SCADA systems, some of which are decades old, had not been designed with cyberattack risks in mind. Bringing these devices up to an acceptable level of security may require a large-scale overhaul.
To avoid the potential for a large scale crisis brought on cybercriminals shutting down a power grid or rail network, the nation's infrastructure control systems need substantial security updates. Keeping hackers at bay requires closing network vulnerabilities and protecting sensitive data that could be used to orchestrate further attacks.
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