The Department of Homeland Security recently stated that it had received reports of 59 cyber incidents at energy facilities last year- up nearly a third from the previous year. Those 59 were only a fraction of the 290 incidents the DHS combatted last year across industrial sectors including oil and gas, chemical plants, manufacturing, and nuclear facilities. According to IBM Managed Security Services data, attacks targeting industrial control systems (ICS) increased over 110 percent in 2016- a surge of dramatic proportions.
Now let’s look at the issue on a larger scale. Based off of 30,000 samples of infected control system files, a San Antonio cybersecurity firm believes that a conservative estimate of worldwide industrial cyberattacks would be 3,000 non-targeted malware infections a year. These are the kinds of attacks that can shut down operations and lead to long-term damages.
In the majority of these cases, hackers either remotely infiltrated or attempted to infiltrate control systems via simple spear phishing emails. They rely on unsuspecting employees clicking on links containing viruses or downloading infected attachments. From there the threats can reach ICS networks purely because they’re linked to corporate networks. It’s really that simple.
Though these statistics seem grim, these problems are not insurmountable. With technology on the market that creates a physical barrier between industrial networks and corporate networks, threats of online attacks from external networks can be eliminated. This is not to say that Homeland Security’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team has their work cut out for them- certainly not. But the horizon looks much brighter, particularly with increasing use of unidirectional technology.