Despite automation, the human factor can still put industrial processes at risk: employee errors or unintentional actions were behind 52 percent of incidents affecting operational technology and industrial control system (OT/ICS) networks last year, according to a recent report by Kaspersky Lab.
The report titled, “State of Industrial Cybersecurity 2019”, underlined that this issue is part of a wider, more complicated context.
The growing complexity of industrial infrastructures demands more advanced protection and skills. But, organisations are experiencing a shortage of professionals to handle new threats and low awareness among employees.
Digitalisation of industrial networks and adoption of Industry 4.0 standards are in the pipeline for many industrial companies. Four out of five organisations (81 percent) see operational network digitalisation as an important or very important task for this year. However, for all the benefits that connected infrastructure brings, there are associated cybersecurity risks.
The good news is that OT/ICS cybersecurity is becoming a top priority for industrial companies, as confirmed by the majority (87 percent) of respondents. But to achieve the necessary level of protection, they need to invest in dedicated measures and have highly qualified professionals to make them work effectively. Despite stating it as a priority, only just over half of companies (57 percent) have the allocated budget for industrial cybersecurity.
In addition to budget constraints, there is also a question over skilled staff. Organisations are not only experiencing a lack of cybersecurity experts with the right skills to manage protection for industrial networks, but are worried that their OT/ICS network operators are not fully aware of the behavior that can cause cybersecurity breaches. These challenges make up the top two major concerns relating to cybersecurity management and go some way to explaining why employee errors cause half of all ICS incidents — such as malware infections — and also more serious targeted attacks.
In almost half of companies (45 percent), the employees responsible for IT infrastructure security also oversee the security of OT/ ICS networks, combining this task with their core responsibilities. Such an approach may carry security risks: although operational and corporate networks are becoming increasingly connected, specialists on each side can have different approaches (37 percent) and goals (18 percent) when it comes to cybersecurity.
“This year’s study shows that companies are seeking to improve protection for industrial networks. However, this can only be achieved if they address the risks related to the lack of qualified staff and employee errors. Taking a comprehensive, multi-layered approach – which combines technical protection with regular training of IT security specialists and industrial network operators – will ensure networks remain protected from threats and skills stay up to date”, said Georgy Shebuldaev, Brand Manager, Kaspersky Industrial Cybersecurity.
In addition to a technical and awareness boost for industrial cybersecurity, organisations need to consider specific protection for Industrial IoT which can become highly connected externally: almost half of companies (41 percent) are ready to connect their OT/ICS network to the cloud, using preventive maintenance or digital twins.