Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The energy sector and its dual relationship with cybersecurity



All days we have uncountable warnings. But it isn't enough, because the data remind us with its usual perseverance that it's necessary - we would say more necessary than ever- to deepen in the cybersecurity on the economic strategic systems.

A recent survey made by Tripwire to electric sector professionals leaves us an encouraging news and others to warn us. The first one, nobody doubts it will be attacked. The second one, almost all the final responsibles are perfectly prepared for attacks.

One of the most curious aspects of this research, with the participation of 150 professionals with executive and non-executive profiles, is it was made on November 2015. That is to say, a month before the shut down suffered on Ukraine which has been catalogued as "the first real-world cyber-attack on an electric grid during an actual war".


It's possible some opinions of the respondent professionals (especially the executives), change in these time; but with the data gave by Tripware, the truth is the electric sector lives a duality: in one hand, it is more distrustful than other sectors facing cybernetic menaces, and on the other hand it's shows very trusty in its resistance and capability.

We see the first part of this duality when we observe that 80% of the respondents ensure their organizations has suffered an increase of successful cyberattacks (yes, successful) along the last 12 months.


That is to say, it exists a large consensus not only about the menaces in the sector, but also about if it is accepted the cyberattacks are real danger and they create damage. And even more, it exists the conviction that the increase isn't precisely small, because the half of professionals think they are between 50% and 100%.


But the other side of this duality, highlighted in media and specialized blogs like something negative, is the confidence of the companie's executives on their own systems being immune. A  confidence which contrasts with non executive positions. To the question of if they have trust on their organizations to detect all the cyberattacks, the answers are quite different between the positions (in blue non executives, on orange executives):


In statements to SCMagazine.com, the IT security and risk strategy Tripware director, Tim Erlin, says executives trend to see the "brightest" part of the reports, given to their clients as to their intern personnel, while to non-executives "fights" daily against menaces to detect them. That is to say they know better the technical field and they are less optimistic.

"Closing that breach requires executives would be exposed to give more details about the difficulty of detecting menaces", add Erlin. "Detect or not detect an attack isn't always a a black or white matter, and non-executives usually have more experience with technical details of how attacks inside the organization are lived". Also, in Tripwire directive opinion, these breach won't be closed soon, or not so soon as it will be needed to face new menaces.

Despite of that, and as we said at the beginning, we can't say the sector doesn't know the situation. On the 2016 RSA Conference -celebrated at the end of February and the beginning of March-, 200 professionals attend a new Tripware survey about the electrical sector exposure to the increasing ransomware  and phising attack menace. To the question of if they believe it will suffer at least a cyberattack which will cause physical damages (like the Ukranian case), the answers is almost unanimous: yes, it will.


Images source: Tripwire.

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