Careful Connections are Key to Mitigating Cyber-Attacks on IIoT Systems

Energy plants and factories have always been prime targets for delivering a devastating setback and psychological blow against an enemy. Today, successful attacks against critical infrastructure can be launched in cyberspace. In 2015, a cyber-attack on a Ukrainian power station caused a loss of power affecting 225,000 customers and the world took note. In the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has raised concerns over the growing number of cyber attacks on industrial control networks. In response, they recently published guidelines to “provide a strategic focus on security and enhance the trust framework that underpins the IoT ecosystem.” The document calls for a combined approach. Among the measures discussed are considered connectivity and defense in depth. Managed Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections and two-factor authentication can help secure critical connections to give IIoT data traffic the in-depth protection it needs.

Mitigating Retail Vulnerabilities

The threat of cybercrime against retailers is ever present. According to the 2016 Global Threat Intelligence Report, retailers are the top targets and receive up to three times the number of attacks as second placed financial institutions. Around 70% of retailers in Europe admit to being targeted while 45% of the attacks are known to have been successful. In the past 12 months, the US retail sector has also seen repeated attacks on electronic point-of-sale (POS) systems as well as consistently high volumes of phishing emails aimed at tricking insiders into giving access to corporate networks. With online takings expected to account for 21% of overall sales in 2017, cybercriminals will continue to try and profit from any vulnerabilities they can find in retail systems. To counter this, retailers have a variety of mitigation techniques available to them including VPNs. The best security remains multi-layered since no single technology can nullify all threats at all times.

Protecting virtual worlds of data in motion

In 2017, 69% of all applications will reside in the cloud according to Cisco. As we rely increasingly on benefits made possible by further advances in Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and mobile devices, it’s a statistic that will continue to rise. The challenge for enterprises today is how to protect data as it streams constantly between physical mobile/IIoT devices to virtual repositories in the cloud and back again. Until corporate IT departments fully manage and stay on top of security, large breaches will continue to make the headlines. Statistics revealed in the Ponemon Institute 2016 Global Cloud Data Security Study show there is still much to do. The study found that nearly half (49%) of cloud services in the enterprise are outside corporate IT’s domain, while around 47% of corporate data stored in cloud environments are not managed by the IT department.

Lack of encryption is putting customer data at risk

Security researchers investigating the Yahoo data breach believe that a failure to use proper encryption is one of the prime reasons behind the hack. If this is right, then many more organizations may be putting customer data at risk. A report by Gemalto and the Ponemon Institute found 92 percent of businesses encrypt just 75 percent or less of their sensitive and confidential data when it is sent via the cloud. The proportion of respondents that encrypt data stored in the cloud is even lower at 40 percent. Worryingly for customers, it is their data that is the most common form of information left unencrypted. This places customer data at considerable risk of being viewed or even harvested by hackers. A simple way of protecting cloud data on its journey from device to cloud storage is to encrypt the whole process using a VPN tunnel.

Mobile Banking Apps: How Safe are They?

Mobile banking apps are set to revolutionize how we bank. According to KPMG, the number of mobile banking users globally is forecast to double to 1.8 billion over the next four years. In the UK regulators have announced new rules to let customers access details of their entire finances through a single mobile phone app by 2018. In the US mobile banking industry, technology has yet to overcome fundamental trust issues but the idea is starting to take off among financial services consumers. The banks and financial institutions are working hard to make their mobile apps as secure as possible. User behavior meanwhile has some catching up to do. For example, connections to free and unsecured Wi-Fi are open and vulnerable to fraud. To reduce security risks, it’s a good idea to use a virtual private network (VPN). This is a tried and tested way to secure the connection and encrypt all data transferred between the mobile device and the bank.