Why is cybersecurity critical to the power and utility sector?
The power and utility sector plays a crucial role in modern society. It provides essential services such as electricity, gas, and water to homes and businesses. While all sectors need to be aware of cybersecurity risks, the power and utility sectors face unique challenges related to their technology infrastructure.
Like most industries today, the power and utility industry is also becoming increasingly reliant on digital technologies. This means that it’s also becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks.
Robust cybersecurity in the power and utility sector is critical because cyberattacks can seriously affect providers and consumers. According to PwC's 25th Annual Global CEO Survey, a significant proportion (44%) of energy, utilities, and resources CEOs ranked cyber threats as one of their top three concerns.
In this article, we will explore the state of cybersecurity in the power and utility industry, the potential impacts of threats, and the measures that can be taken to mitigate them.
Why is the power and utility sector prone to cyberattacks?
The power and utility industry is responsible for critical infrastructure essential to modern life. As a result, it is an attractive target for hackers who want to disrupt these vital services. For example, in the Sandworm cyberattack, a state-sponsored hacking group carried out a series of well-coordinated attacks to disrupt critical energy and transport infrastructure. This new attack vector poses a serious threat to national security and society as a whole.
The sector is increasingly reliant on digital technologies. This includes using digital controls, sensors, and other devices that hackers can target.
As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, risk exposure can be significant. This interconnectivity makes it easier for hackers to move laterally and exploit vulnerabilities in all interrelated systems.
This includes both the physical and digital interfaces. As they merge with advanced technology and rely on each other, an attack on one can potentially bring down the other.
This industry powers modern existence and has a vast customer base. After all, we all need electricity, heating, and water just to survive. The potential for financial gain or strategic advantage is high. Therefore, the power and utility sector is a high-value target for hackers.
How does the industry mitigate risk?
First things first – cultivate a culture of cybersecurity within your organization. As such, cybersecurity should be a key design parameter in your business infrastructure.
Commit to cybersecurity by providing sufficient funding and accountability. Be aware that risks may also come from third-party vendors, who may need help understanding the bigger picture. Therefore you should establish common cyber-resilience goals with all stakeholders.
Here are other ways to improve your cybersecurity posture and build a robust defense system.
- Integrate the latest cybersecurity systems and protocols. This includes installing and regularly updating security software, implementing strong passwords and authentication measures, and training employees on cybersecurity best practices.
- Conduct regular cyber risk assessments. Regular risk assessments can help identify vulnerabilities in both your physical and digital infrastructure and identify areas that need to be improved.
- Implement incident response plans. Having a clear and well-rehearsed incident response plan in place can help minimize the impact of a cyber attack if one does occur.
- Establish relationships with cybersecurity experts and law enforcement. Working with cybersecurity experts and law enforcement agencies can help to identify and respond to potential threats on time.
- Implement physical security measures. Remember, the lines between the physical and digital are blurring. So, it is best to keep an eye on all possible access points, such as control systems, surveillance cameras, and more is best.
- Use encryption and backups. Encrypting sensitive data can make it meaningless in the event of a breach. Backup and recovery protocols will ensure increased uptime and business continuity.
The main challenge that the industry faces is staying a step ahead of threat actors who are increasingly sophisticated and relentless. Furthermore, the threat of human error is always there, so regular security training can help staff stay alert.