Increase in industrial cyber threats since pandemic began: report


Wednesday, 07 October, 2020

Increase in industrial cyber threats since pandemic began: report

OT cybersecurity company Claroty has released updated research on the state of industrial cybersecurity worldwide, which found that a majority (56%) of information technology (IT) and OT security professionals at industrial enterprises have seen an increase in cybersecurity threats since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. Additionally, 70% have seen cybercriminals using new tactics to target their organisations in this timeframe.

The report, ‘The Critical Convergence of IT and OT Security in a Global Crisis’, is said to be based on a global, independent survey of 1100 full-time IT and OT security professionals who own, operate or otherwise support critical infrastructure components within large enterprises across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific, examining how their concerns, attitudes and experiences have changed since the pandemic began in March.

Responses from IT and OT security professionals in Australia and New Zealand reveal that:

  • almost 65% said their IT and OT networks are “completely connected”, yet only 8% are prioritising OT security;
  • 81% agree IT and OT have become more connected and 92% agree they will become even more connected as a result of the pandemic;
  • 81% have found the collaboration between the IT and OT teams within their organisation more challenging during the pandemic.

Across the globe, COVID-19 has led cybercriminals to use new tactics and organisations to become more vulnerable to cyber attacks, with 56% of global respondents saying that their organisation has experienced more cybersecurity threats since the pandemic began. Further, almost three-quarters (72%) reported that their jobs have become more challenging.

COVID-19 has clearly had an impact on IT/OT convergence, as two-thirds (67%) say that their IT and OT networks have become more interconnected since the pandemic began and more than 75% expect they will become even more interconnected as a result of it. While IT/OT convergence unlocks business value in terms of operations efficiency, performance and quality of services, it can also be detrimental because threats — both targeted and non-targeted — can move freely between IT and OT environments.

“While we would be short-sighted to think that we won’t have more challenges as we continue to face unknowns from this pandemic, protecting critical infrastructure is especially important in a time of crisis,” said Yaniv Vardi, CEO of Claroty. “As large enterprises are trying to improve their productivity by connecting more OT and IoT devices and remotely accessing their industrial networks, they are also increasing their exposure as a result. OT security needs to be brought to the fore and made a priority for all organisations. Attackers know that IT networks are covered with cybersecurity solutions, so they’re moving to exploit vulnerabilities in OT to gain access to enterprise networks. Not protecting OT is like protecting a house with state-of-the-art security and alarm systems, but then leaving the front door open.”

In terms of industries, globally the respondents ranked pharmaceutical, oil and gas, electric utilities, manufacturing, and building management systems as the top five most vulnerable to attack. Most regions followed similar patterns, identifying three to five industries clustered closely towards the top of the list. The exceptions are the DACH region, where oil and gas clearly holds the top spot at 36%, and Singapore, where pharmaceuticals is at 22%.

To read the report, along with full survey data, click here.

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