Seven circles of approval: red tape is the main barrier for cybersecurity initiatives in industrial sector

The recent Kaspersky report ‘State of Industrial Cybersecurity in the Era of Digitalisation’ has revealed the main barriers that inhibit or delay implementation of industrial cybersecurity projects. The most common obstacles include the inability to stop production (34%), and bureaucratic steps, such as a lengthy approval process (31%) and having too many decision-makers (23%). These barriers may become a critical point in light of COVID-19 because they can affect the implementation of pandemic-driven operational technology (OT) security initiatives.

The cybersecurity race doesn’t slow down, and every year many incidents, including high-profile attacks, are hitting industrial control systems (ICS). The pandemic lockdown introduced its own challenges in addition to the existing threat landscape. Industrial firms have to adapt to new norms including remote work, overnight digitalisation and new hygiene requirements, as well as specific pandemic-driven threats such as a massive growth in phishing attacks. Organisations need to make sure their protection is up to date with these changes and there are no open doors for malicious actions in ICS networks.

The above barriers however are what organisations will have to overcome when implementing cybersecurity projects. Remarkably, most of them refer to bureaucratic rather than technical obstacles – in total, almost half of organisations (46%) face red tape delays. In addition to the most prevalent – long approval times and numerous decision-makers – these barriers include protracted supplier selection and purchasing processes, as well as interference from other departments.

Typical barriers in the implementation of OT/ICS security projects

These barriers may become even more critical in the current post-lockdown period. The survey revealed that almost half of organisations (46%) expect to see changes in their OT security priorities as a result of the pandemic. These organisations will probably need to shift their security strategy on-the-fly and quickly implement new cybersecurity practices. While it can be challenging generally, due to the specific requirements of OT, the barriers for implementation can complicate and slow down the process even more. Some organisations will need to be even more conscious as they try to overcome these difficulties with decreased OT security budgets (24%).

“It’s always more difficult to invest money and resources in projects without a clear return on investment, such as with cybersecurity initiatives. And while cybersecurity for OT is still a developing area, all these management barriers are quite natural. As a vendor, it is up to us to help customers eliminate these obstacles and simplify and speed up the implementation of protection measures. Our task here is to make ROI more transparent and showcase the risks for businesses so customers can understand the benefits from the very beginning and better justify them to C-suite or the board if needed”, commented Georgy Shebuldaev, Head of Growth Center at Kaspersky.

In order to help industrial organisations accelerate the implementation of industrial cybersecurity projects, Kaspersky suggests the following steps:

  • If an organisation doesn’t have enough experience and practice in complex ICS security projects, it’s better to implement solutions step by step: start with building organisational processes and adopting basic cybersecurity measures such as security gateways and endpoint protection. Then move to more complex projects such as network monitoring, intrusion prevention and SIEM. Industrial standards, such as ISO or IEC guidelines, can help to organise methods and increase the speed of project execution.
  • Introduce a practice whereby all new OT systems are implemented with cybersecurity built-in. This should simplify further protection processes and give the OT security team the ability to test new protection tools on these parts of the infrastructure.
  • Enable education and training for all teams including specific ICS security training for IT security and OT engineers and awareness to all employees. This will help different teams understand the risks and responsibilities of each other and increase the overall level of consciousness about cybersecurity.
  • Choose a reliable cybersecurity solution for OT components and networks, as well as trusted partners for implementation. Kaspersky Industrial CyberSecurity solution includes dedicated protection for endpoints and network monitoring as well as ICS expert services and intelligence. The services enable cybersecurity assessment, incident response and obtaining the latest data about emerging threats and how to address them. The results of cybersecurity assessments may be helpful in justifying protection projects to the board.

To read the full report ‘State of Industrial Cybersecurity in the Era of Digitalisation’ please visit the web page.

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