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Cyber attacks continue to threaten critical infrastructure

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Cyber attacks are becoming increasingly prevalent for utilities, creating a growing need for vigilant cyber security policies to defend the nation's critical infrastructure.

As technology integrates via the internet and other means, it becomes more vulnerable to cyber attacks. A new report by the Department of Homeland Security's Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) indicates that there have been over 200 cyber attacks to critical infrastructure during the first half of the fiscal year. In order to maintain the important interconnected nature of technology, careful security monitoring against cyber attacks is becoming more crucial.

Brute force attacks increasing 
The ICS-CERT report showed that the greatest number of incidents on the nation's critical infrastructure were in within the energy sector with 111, making up 53 percent of the total incidents reported in the first half of the 2013 fiscal year. The critical manufacturing sector saw the next highest number of incidents with 32, making up 17 percent of the total.

As the country grows more reliant on the nation's energy infrastructure, the rising number of attacks poses even larger risks. The majority of cyber security incidents came in three different forms, known as watering hole attacks, SQL injections, and spear phishing attacks. Because of the frequency and variety of these incidents, the ICS-CERT report urged constant and diligent monitoring of security systems so that none of these attacks are successful.

New public-private partnership announced for increased CIP
Critical infrastructure protection (CIP) solutions play an important role in keeping the nation's infrastructure safe from cyber attacks. In June, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced a new initiative to help oil and natural gas companies protect their infrastructure. The new public-private partnership will work to develop a maturity model tool for gas and oil companies, utilizing industry best practices to identify an organization's security strengths and weaknesses.

"As cyber threats continue to increase in frequency and sophistication, helping critical infrastructure owners and operators across the energy sector identify opportunities to strengthen their own cyber security capabilities is a top priority," Moniz said.

The new initiative follows a model similar to an initiative created for the electricity industry last year.

"Building on the successes in the electricity industry, this initiative for the oil and gas sector is an important step in moving us closer to achieving the Department's vision of resilient energy delivery systems that can survive a cyber incident while sustaining critical functions."

Utilizing cyber security solution 
The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) created a set of strict standards to ensure the security of the nation's critical infrastructure. These standards, to which utilities must comply, ensure that the nation's energy grid is properly protected from the growing number of cyber attacks.

SUBNET offers smart grid, cyber security solutions to utilities that meet these stringent NERC-CIP standards by using a company's existing infrastructure and corporate IT policies to help better protect their energy grid.

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