Protecting Critical Infrastructure from Cyber Threats

By Elvis Huff on October 30, 2017
5 minute read

Food, water and shelter often come to mind as the critical elements of survival. They are! Personally, I would like to add coffee to this list. But my love of coffee, cannot surpass my need for water, no matter how many times I go through the drive thru at my favorite coffee shop.

As much as the triad of food, water, and shelter are necessary for our way of life, so too are things such as:
• Traffic Lights
• Phone Lines
• Sewer Systems
• Electrical Grids
• Oil and Gas
• Transit
• Internet
• Banking and Finance

All of these things are now deemed as “Critical Infrastructure” by various local, state and federal entities. With this designation comes many responsibilities such as availability, reliability, and security. What was once an analog-only world of valves and tubes is now paired with internet relays, sensors, and switches.

Industrial Control Systems (ICS) are now high tech enough to rival the cockpit of the latest jet airliners. Sensors now report, in real time via an internet connection, to the operator in the control panel as well as to corporate, the condition of the mechanical items in the facility. Now, the operator can be miles away from the actual facility they are monitoring. With local, or somewhat local, monitoring, and corporate oversight, management is better than ever.

However, with the advantage of real-time monitoring comes the necessity for securing those sensors and relays. Imagine the horror if attackers were able to compromise the relay that opens and closes the local dam. Many people would be in danger – or worse, actually harmed – if this happened. Also, consider a power grid issue in Ukraine in 2015. According to Forbes’ reporting, vast swatches of the country were without power during the winter of 2015. The culprit? Not human error; it was a cyber-attack. Indeed, cybersecurity has just escalated to a new realm where lives can be in danger if cybersecurity is not handled properly.

Hence the creation of the ICS-CERT and CIKR teams. These are just some of the federal initiatives designed to assist in the fight against cybercrime. The Industrial Control Systems Computer Emergency Readiness Team (ICS-CERT) and the Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources (CIKR) support annex are ready to train and equip personnel to combat cyber threats for U.S. Critical Infrastructure. They do this through information sharing, seminars, and other trainings to keep those engaged in the fight against cybercrime ready.

Did you know October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month? As we continue the discussion about Cybersecurity, please remember to subscribe to the blog and leave a comment below. I would love to get your feedback!

In case you missed it, please see Week 4’s post here:

Posted by Elvis Huff

Elvis Huff worked as an officer and network administrator for 12 years with the Lebanon Police Department and has also served as an adjunct professor in information systems at Cumberland University. Read More »

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