New research from Unisys finds alarming gaps in the security of the world’s critical infrastructure. Nearly 70 percent of companies surveyed that are responsible for the world’s power, water and other critical functions have reported at least one security breach that led to the loss of confidential information or disruption of operations in the past 12 months.
In a survey of 599 security executives at utility, oil and gas, energy and manufacturing companies, 64 percent of respondents anticipated one or more serious attacks in the coming year. Despite this risk, only 28 percent ranked security as one of the top five strategic priorities for their organization, while a majority named their top business priority as minimizing downtime.
“The findings of the survey are startling, given that these industries form the backbone of the global economy and cannot afford a disruption,” said Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute. “While the desire for security protection is apparent among these companies, not nearly enough is actually being done to secure our critical infrastructure against attacks.”
Only one in six respondents describe their organization’s IT security program or activities as mature. Respondents who reported suffering a data breach within the past year most often attributed these breaches to an internal accident or mistake, and negligent insiders were the most cited threat to company security. Despite these findings, only 6 percent of respondents said they provide cybersecurity training for all employees.
“Whether malicious or accidental, threats from the inside are just as real and devastating as those coming from the outside,” said Dave Frymier, chief information security officer at Unisys. “We hope the survey results serve as a wake-up call to critical infrastructure providers to take a much more proactive, holistic approach to securing their IT systems against attacks. Action should be taken before an incident occurs, not just after a breach.”
The survey also highlighted the concerns many of these executives feel regarding the security of industrial control systems (ICS) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, which monitor and control the processes and operations for power generation and other critical infrastructure functions.
When asked about the likelihood of an attack on their organizations’ ICS or SCADA systems, 78 percent of the senior security officials responded that a successful attack is at least somewhat likely within the next 24 months. Just 21 percent of respondents thought that the risk level to ICS and SCADA has substantially decreased because of regulations and industry-based security standards, which means that tighter controls and better adoption of standards are needed.
The full report is available here.