Why is Critical Infrastructure Important?
According to the FBI Internet Crime Report 2021, the Internet Crime Complain Center (IC3) received 649 complaints that indicated organizations belonging to a critical infrastructure sector were victims of a ransomware attack — totaling roughly $6.9 billion in losses in 2021. Protecting critical infrastructure is important to maintaining a healthy and sustainable economy.
What is Critical Infrastructure Protection?
Critical infrastructure protection (CIP) is the need to protect the key infrastructure networks of buildings, utilities, and transportation systems essential to maintaining society. Governments aim to protect their communities from terrorist activity, natural disasters, and cyber threats.
Critical Infrastructure Sectors
Here are the 16 critical infrastructure sectors, based on the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA):
- Chemical — Includes companies that produce industrial chemicals.
- Commercial facilities — Includes sites that draw crowds of people for shopping, business, entertainment, or lodging.
- Communications — Includes telecommunications/telephone companies and internet service providers.
- Critical manufacturing — Includes companies in the mechanical, physical, or chemical transformation of materials, substances, or components into new products.
- Dams — Includes dam projects, hurricane barriers, and other water retention and control facilities.
- Defense industrial base — Includes research and development of military systems.
- Emergency services — Includes emergency response teams.
- Energy — Includes companies involved in producing and distributing energy, such as fossil fuel, electrical power, nuclear, and renewable energy.
- Financial services — Includes businesses that manage money such as credit unions, banks, and credit card companies.
- Food and agriculture — Includes farms, restaurants, and registered food manufacturing, processing, and storage facilities.
- Government facilities — Includes general-use office buildings for government purposes such as courthouses, embassies, national laboratories, and more.
- Healthcare and public health — Includes all institutes dedicated to protecting the economy from hazards such as infectious disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and terrorism.
- Information technology sector — Includes companies that produce software, hardware, or semiconductor equipment, and organizations that provide internet or related services.
- Nuclear reactors, materials, and waste — Includes nuclear reactors, nuclear fuel cycle facilities, and other radioactive sources.
- Transportation systems — Includes services and transport systems to safely and securely move goods across the country and overseas.
- Water and wastewater systems — Includes drinking water and wastewater infrastructures.
The importance of critical infrastructure protection
Critical infrastructure protection (CIP) is essential to communities because any damage to these infrastructures is detrimental to global economies and the public. The national government creates rules and regulations to protect these infrastructures. On July 28, 2021, the White House released a national security memorandum that discussed the importance of CIP and ways to improve cybersecurity for critical infrastructure control systems.
This memorandum is an example of how the United States is responding to the many cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure in the country, such as the Colonial Pipeline hack.
On May 7, 2021, the Colonial Pipeline in Texas suffered a ransomware attack by the criminal hacking group Darkside. The cyberattackers demanded a $5 million ransom in exchange for material from Colonial Pipeline’s internal drive. As a result of the attack, which lacked actual proof of a pipeline infrastructure breach, and out of an abundance of caution, was shut down anyway, for several days. Colonial Pipeline paid the ransom just one day after the attack.On May 13, 2021, Colonial Pipeline announced the company restarted its entire pipeline system and product delivery commenced to all markets.
Earlier in 2022, President Biden took steps in ramping up the country’s cybersecurity by signing into law the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act of 2022 (CIRCIA)—marking a milestone in improving cybersecurity in the United States.
How to protect critical infrastructure
You can be proactive in preventing threat actors from infiltrating your network by following the tips below:
- Implement good cyber hygiene practices. Take a zero trust approach. Implement principles of least privilege (PoLP). Reduce the radius of an attack with network segmentation. Segment OT networks to reduce pivot points to higher value assets.
- Invest in digital and physical security. Restrict access with employee badges. Use guest passes to track the ins and outs of third-party visitors.
- Audit devices and network. Maintain strict supply chain control and purchase only from authorized resellers. Periodically test security configurations against security requirements. Backup configurations and store them offline.
- Patch operating systems and applications as directed by CISA and OEM suppliers.
Organizations should take steps to protect their infrastructures, however, traditional security tools cannot monitor industrial control systems (ICS) and operational technology (OT) since ICS/OT assets are unable to accommodate security agents.
Armis’s IT/OT Convergence Strategy Playbook offers solutions to the difficulties that arise in ICS/OT security. The Armis platform is an agentless cybersecurity solution that gives you complete visibility across OT and IT assets and the ability to monitor assets and traffic passively on your network and air space.