Risk Assessment and Cyber Hygiene in an Interconnected World

09 Oct 2023

Cyber Hygiene Helps Safeguard Operations

Manufacturing and industry are more digitally connected than ever before. What are the risks of this interconnectivity, and how can good cyber hygiene help organizations safeguard their operational environments? 

Rapid Digitization

Rapid digitization offers many benefits along with the potential for significant risk. As more processes, infrastructure, and data become digitized and interconnected, users and organizations have experienced a huge increase in the number and sophistication of cyber attacks. The more connected a system is, the greater the associated risks.

Interconnected devices pose a particular threat to critical systems such as manufacturing, robotics, and smart systems. Because they are connected to the internet and interact with other systems, these devices create many entry points for criminals to exploit. Interconnected devices were developed with an emphasis on functionality rather than security. They often have weak communication protocols, insecure authentication methods, and a lack of security updates. These vulnerabilities make it easy for attackers to gain unauthorized access. 

The rapid growth in interconnectivity has outpaced the implementation of consistent and standardized security regulations. Interconnected systems in industrial and smart devices are often spread across different locations, making them hard to track and manage effectively. Outdated versions of these devices are highly susceptible to infiltration. The threat potential is serious: Attacks on critical systems can lead to harmful data breaches, as well as production disruptions, physical damage, and safety hazards for workers and the environment. 

It can be difficult to pinpoint and control threats in interconnected environments. For example, robotics systems in smart warehouses are responsible for automated manufacturing processes, but their different aspects are disjointed from one another. In the event of a security incident, it’s hard to know whether the source is a malicious actor or a simple oversight on the part of an operator. 

The risks inherent in interconnected systems span all aspects of our daily lives. Smart doorbell systems, such as Google Nest Doorbell and Amazon Ring, collect and store your footage on servers that can be targeted by malicious actors. Smart cars have access to your financial information, with the potential to cause major damage before a breach is ever detected. 

Our world is not likely to become less interconnected. Proper cyber hygiene is vital in order to mitigate cyber exposure and defend against the risk of cyber attacks.  

Healthy Habits

Just as personal hygiene habits promote our well-being and help prevent illness, cyber hygiene protects our digital safety and security. It involves establishing and adhering to good online habits and security measures that safeguard our privacy and protect our digital assets from cyber-attacks. 

Cyber hygiene best practices include:

  • Installing security software: Install and maintain antivirus software, firewalls, and other safety measures that can detect and block viruses, malware, and other threats. 
  • Carrying out timely updates: Ensure that your operating systems, devices, and applications are regularly updated. This helps make certain that the latest security measures are in place and minimizes the risk of cyber attacks.
  • Creating strong passwords: Use strong and unique passwords to help prevent unauthorized access to your accounts, and set different passwords for each of your accounts and applications. 
  • Using two-factor authentication (2FA): Set up 2FA, which fortifies account security by adding another layer of security. 2FA involves requiring a second method of verification in addition to a password, such as entering a code sent to a mobile device. 
  • Backing up data: Regularly back up important data and files in cloud storage or on a separate device to ensure it can be recovered in case of a ransomware attack, hardware failure, or other cyber incident.  
  • Practicing safe habits: Avoid downloading files from untrusted sources and be sure to browse on secure websites only. Utilize pop-up blockers and ad-blockers to lower the risk of exposure to harmful content. 
  • Ensuring careful email behavior: Avoid clicking on suspicious or unverified links and attachments sent in emails, and report any requests that ask for your login credentials or other personal information.
  • Staying informed: Educate yourself about current OT cybersecurity threats from reliable information sources. 

Good cyber hygiene practices allow organizations to take a proactive stance against cyber attack. They protect organizations’ digital presence and significantly lower their likelihood of falling prey to malicious actors.

 

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Cyber Hygiene’s Role in an Interconnected World

Our digitized and interconnected lives necessitate added prudence when it comes to proper cyber hygiene practices. Cyber hygiene is a must, particularly for OT systems such as manufacturing, robotics, and smart systems, because ensuring the reliability and integrity of these systems is vital to processes running smoothly and safely. There are several key aspects of cyber hygiene as it relates to these systems:

Ensuring data privacy: Manufacturing, robotics, and smart systems generate tremendous amounts of data. Good cyber hygiene includes securing the storage and transmission of this data and protecting access to it. It involves secure data handling procedures such as encryption and access controls to protect sensitive information from theft, unauthorized access, or modification.

Securing automation systems: Robotics and other automation systems are increasingly becoming indispensable to manufacturing processes. Good cyber hygiene is needed to protect these systems from attacks that can compromise safety, disrupt operations, or lead to unauthorized control. Reliable encryption and strong authentication procedures can help secure these technologies, as can regular patching of relevant software and firmware. 

Protecting industrial control systems (ICSs): Manufacturers rely on ICSs to automate and control many processes. Maintaining cyber hygiene protects these systems from cyber threats such as malware and unauthorized access. The integrity of industrial control systems can be safeguarded through secure access controls and network segmentation.

Updating systems: The firmware and software required to run manufacturing, robotics, and smart systems requires consistent updates to keep them safe from known threats. These updates keep cyber criminals from taking advantage of security vulnerabilities. 

Carrying out training and education: Ensuring awareness of OT cybersecurity threats across the organization is an important part of creating a resilient, security-conscious culture. Employees should attend regular training sessions that review topics such as data protection, strong passwords, safe browsing habits, detecting phishing attempts, and more. Doing so helps prevent human error and minimizes the risk of insider threats. 

Addressing supply chain risks: Interconnected systems often have large and complex supply chains. Good cyber hygiene is needed to mitigate these risks. Organizations must ensure that all vendors and suppliers use secure communication channels and carry out security audits. These practices are vital to ensuring the risk of compromise across the entire supply chain. 

The Need to Be Proactive

A well-known proverb states that hygiene is two-thirds of health. The same is true of cyber hygiene. However, many organizations don’t take their cyber hygiene as seriously as they should until it’s too late. 

A proactive approach to cyber hygiene has multiple advantages for operational technology organizations. It enables organizations to stay ahead of the continuously-emerging threat landscape, detecting and protecting them from threats before they are exploited. It protects critical infrastructure, minimizes disruptions and lowers the impact on personal and public safety. It prioritizes data privacy and integrity so sensitive information is not compromised. It addresses the unique vulnerabilities of systems traditionally not designed with security in mind. It lowers the risk of operational disruptions that would lead to downtime and financial loss. It allows organizations to comply with industry-specific regulatory requirements. It also prevents reputation damage and loss of customer trust.

A proactive approach to cyber hygiene requires a trusted partner. OTORIO’s hybrid system combines manual analysis and automated solutions to effectively assess organizations’ risks and safeguard their operational environments. Cyber hygiene demands that organizations first gain a comprehensive understanding of what their needs and issues are in order to address them effectively and in order of importance.

OTORIO’s spOT OT risk assessment provides organizations with on-demand evidence-based risk and compliance assessment. It saves time and resources by assessing and leveraging organizations’ existing OT cybersecurity assets. spOT identifies security gaps and vulnerabilities, allowing them to be prioritized based on their potential business impact and possible consequences on operational processes. spOT provides organizations with regulatory compliance reports, a rich, granular OT security posture overview, and targeted recommendations based on the needs of their specific OT environment. 

OTORIO’s attack graph analysis allows organizations to gain valuable insight into which network vulnerabilities are the most critical, allowing organizations to prioritize where to allocate security resources. Along with OTORIO’s patented risk simulation model, attack graph analysis enables companies to quantify and manage risk by providing a visual representation that calculates how difficult it would be for an attacker to breach an IT and OT networks from the cloud and to disrupt operations or shut down the manufacturing system. 

Each component of a cyber attack has a different probability of occurring, each has different potential impact, and each has unique probabilities of exploitation. By helping companies visualize the four key components of OT cybersecurity threats - threat, likelihood, vulnerability, and impact - OTORIO provides organizations with the relevant context to understand their OT security posture so they can prioritize risks and address them effectively, staying ahead of OT network threats.

A comprehensive and proactive approach to cyber hygiene and risk assessment is the key to safeguarding robotics, manufacturing, smart systems, and other OT organizations. OTORIO allows organizations to mitigate the risks associated with cyber threats, safeguard critical infrastructure, enhance system resilience, and protect sensitive data and operations. 

 

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