Examining the Top Cybersecurity Industrial Trends and Challenges

Industrial Control System (ICS) security is a necessity because so many cyber attacks now target physical processes within an organization. Hackers can use ransomware and other methods to attack power grids and water services, putting people at risk and jeopardizing the functionality of these organizations. 

Large-scale businesses with significant on-site infrastructure should know that attacks could knock their entire operations out if successful. This guide examines the importance of a cybersecurity industrial plan and some trends and challenges the industry faces moving forward. 

What Is Industrial Cybersecurity?

Industrial cybersecurity is the protection of industrial control systems from cyber attacks. It can include practices like asset inventory, network protection, patch management, vulnerability management, access management, and endpoint response. 

ICS security differs from traditional IT security because it manages devices that are more sensitive to changes, and any attacks could knock out power, water, and other critical elements within a facility. These systems are often automated but run on embedded equipment far older than anything an IT department would use, creating security challenges.

Why Specialized Industrial Cybersecurity Is Necessary

An organization can’t replicate what it’s doing for IT security and apply it to ICS security because the systems are different. Understanding why a unique approach is required is necessary for chief information security officers (CISOs) and all decision-makers within an organization. Reasons why dedicated industrial cybersecurity is needed include the following:

Older Devices and Software

The devices that handle operational controls are often older and use outdated software compared to traditional IT. A particular system could be running Windows 7 or Windows XP and have embedded sensors, controllers, relays, and networking equipment, which require a far different approach than a modern system with a cloud-based network. 

Significant Impacts From an Attack 

You don’t want to risk an attack on your operational controls because it could jeopardize people’s safety. Your regular cybersecurity platform protects data and keeps your network active, but an attack on your operational controls could disrupt power, heat, and other essentials. 

Specific Knowledge Is Required 

Your IT team probably doesn’t have the knowledge necessary to handle your ICS security. These workers could already be stretched thin trying to protect company data, so asking them to develop and maintain another system could leave them too busy. This specialized knowledge is necessary when responding to an attack because you can do more harm than good if you stop an operational process. 

Your ICS security platform and team should be separate from your existing IT security department because of its unique requirements. This specialized team will also better understand the challenges the industry is experiencing.

Six Trends and Challenges the Industry Will See in 2023

Cybersecurity is becoming a hot-button topic for businesses of all sizes. The industrial cybersecurity industry will undergo some changes in the coming years as attacks become more prevalent in organizations throughout the country. Some trends and challenges we could see in the coming year include the following:

1. More Pressure on CISOs 

One of the top trends we could see in 2023 is CEOs and corporate boards putting more pressure on their CISOs to solve organizational cybersecurity issues. Executives know an attack can quickly bring a company to its knees, so they want their information security departments on top of all potential threats before they reach a critical stage. We could also see a shift in the reporting structure, with CISOs reporting directly to the CEO or board instead of the COO or CIO.

2. Increased Risk Because of AI Usage 

Securing many ICS devices is challenging without disrupting mandatory industrial processes. The emerging usage of artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G networks could bring advantages in many industrial settings, but there’s also some uncertainty about how they influence the industrial cybersecurity landscape. We could see additional risk as this new technology is integrated into these systems. 

3. The Elimination of Air-Gapping 

Air-gapping separates industrial cybersecurity networks from the rest of the organization’s network, making it virtually impossible to attack these systems from outside the firm. Most ICS attacks result from human error, accidents, or sabotage, but that could change because greater integration between ICS devices and business applications is becoming necessary. Air-gapping might not be a viable security strategy moving forward, creating problems when developing solutions.

4. ICS as a Core Principle 

There’s a significant talent shortage in the cybersecurity industry, with as many as 3.5 million professionals needed in the coming years. Corporations could combat this shortage by making ICS security a core principle, ensuring that hiring the necessary staff is a company-wide priority. New security software solutions could also come to the forefront as organizations look for tools to protect their industrial processes from attack.

5. Deployment of Zero Trust Solutions

Zero Trust security calls for all system users to have authorization and authentication before receiving access to an application and its data. ICS security administrators have been slow to use this tactic because they are concerned about the complexity it will bring when managing physical processes and the rest of the infrastructure. The increasing integration of ICS with traditional business networks could make Zero Trust solutions inevitable

6. Nation-State Involvement 

State-backed adversaries are a significant issue for organizations as they look for vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure and operational systems. This trend is concerning because the budgets these nation-states can access are massive. Security plans must account for the level of sophistication future attacks could have when developing a cybersecurity industrial program.

Some of these trends and challenges are already present, while others could come to the forefront in the coming months. Developing an ICS security plan and having the right staff and platforms available can reduce the risks businesses all over the country are experiencing. 

Plenty of Room for Growth

There’s significant opportunity for growth regarding industrial cybersecurity, especially for developers creating security platforms for dedicated IT teams. Startups focusing on this sector could provide value for an industry starving for adequate security solutions. 

Option3 brings cybersecurity startups and industry-savvy investors together, creating opportunities for both parties. We know there’s significant room for growth in this industry that will require a new wave of startups, which is why we’re doing our part to fund them. Contact Option3 for more information on industrial cybersecurity.


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