Think of all the ways to access your computer systems. The number has increased dramatically now that employees commonly use mobile devices or USB keys to connect. With so many devices in play, the chances that malicious software can invade these systems increase. This could cause a utility’s HMI or network to go down and damage systems that control the grid, affecting not only your business, but also the economy and security of a country or region.
A recent survey by Ponemon Institute found that cyber attacks against the energy sector are up 52 percent in just the previous two years. To help prevent system unavailability and quickly recover from an incident, it is essential to strengthen your cyber security program.
The following items, known as the Seven Pillars of Cyber Defense, should be a key element of your security plan.
- Identify critical cyber assets Identify the assets that are essential to your operations. These assets are crucial so it is important to have up-to-date backups that allow you to recover quickly in the case of loss or failure. Mistakes in this step will impact the rest of your cyber security decisions.
- Minimize access to your most sensitive information Partition sensitive data inside of communication pipes. Sometimes wide area networks (WANs) are used for multiple purposes, e.g., IP telephony, CCTV, teleprotection, and SCADA. Segment and use quality of service to preserve critical functions according to priority.
- Control user access Restrict users’ electronic and physical access to prevent unauthorized access or compromise of your confidential and critical company information.
- Implement patch management policies Eliminate known security vulnerabilities by implementing a system for monitoring and applying software patches.
- Prevent malicious software attacks Protect yourself from malicious programs using application whitelisting, which allows only authorized applications and services to run on a computer.
- Develop a disaster recovery and response plan Ensure processes, policies, and procedures are in place to recover your organization’s critical technology infrastructure after a disaster.
- Monitor cyber systems for attacks Surveil your systems continuously for signs of attack such as failed logins and account deletion and creation, and ensure an alert system is in place for reporting any attacks.
Implementing these recommended strategies is an important step to take toward protecting your organization. However, given the proliferation of cyber security breaches across industries in recent years, many experts believe it is no longer a question of if, but when, a company will experience a breach.
That means it’s also essential to have a recovery plan in place. This mitigates not only the damage to your systems, but also, just as importantly, it minimizes the substantial financial impact to both your utility and your commercial and industrial customers. A security breach damages customers’ trust in your organization and harms your relationships, reputation, and brand value—some of your most important assets.
To learn more, visit our smart utility ebook, Powering an Always-On World