The Dangers of Attacks on Critical Infrastructure

Published: 2023-01-05 in security

Critical Infrastructure (CI) creates stability and allows for sophisticated and smooth operating among societies around the world. Countries around the world have different ideas on which sectors of critical infrastructure are considered vital to a society’s functioning. The USA has prioritized 16 sectors of CI to be vital whereas the UK has deemed only 13 to be. Any disruption or damage to the CI can have devastating consequences.

Cybercriminals are mysterious in nature and their motives can be unknown and reach far beyond a quick payday. An attacker may decide to plan an attack on critical infrastructure with intent to hurt an entire region or country. 

Attacks on Critical Infrastructure could leave companies bankrupt and destroy the livelihoods of millions of people. According to 2020 Global Risks Report, WEF, cyberattacks have been declared a top concern in 2020 and expect this to continue into the following years. To stop cybercriminals for wreaking havoc from accessing vital networks, and posing risk to national and global security, CI facilities must follow the proper measures.


Attacks Are Widespread

CI attacks are a trending topic among news stations. Listed below, are some of the highly publicized cases that have had devastating effects on businesses. Everyone is vulnerable without the proper protections in place. 

1.    Colonial Pipeline
Don’t underestimate the power of cybercriminals. In May 2021, a single credential had been hacked, which resulted in a complete shut down of the Colonial Pipeline’s gasoline distribution to the East Coast. Due to the nature of the attack, Colonial Pipeline was down for almost a week.

2.    JBS SA
Even the largest companies in the world can find themselves victims to cybercrimes. The world’s largest meat processing company, JBS SA was forced into stop production at its United States, Australia, and Canada locations. 

3.    The Health Service Executive (HSE) Hack
The Health Service Executive located in Ireland, was hit with an attack in the middle of the pandemic while health services were in such high demand. The HSE was forced to shut down its IT systems temporarily due to the attack. 

Other well-known cases include the attacks on NSW’s State Transit Authority (Australia), Israel’s Water Authority, and Air India.

Know the Threat Actors

To avoid a CI attack, be aware of the threats that exist and how to prevent them from being successful.

•    Phishing
Experts at Statista have estimated 75% of businesses in the United States had experienced a phishing attack in 2020. Phishing is done when a cybercriminal pretends to be a genuine sender through email trying to gain sensitive information. The attacker will attempt to be convincing enough to have users fall into the trap of sharing credentials or clicking on malicious links and attachments. To the untrained eye, these emails can easily be mistaken for the real thing.

•    Unpatched vulnerabilities
Hackers can discover unpatched vulnerabilities and run malevolent code through your system. Half of all cyberattacks have been reported to have been caused by unpatched vulnerabilities by 

•    Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)
Your server will become overwhelmed with traffic in the event of a DDoS attack and will disrupt your service. DDoS attacks are on the rise, and within just one year have risen 30% according to Statista. 

•    SQL injection
A SQL injection is when malicious SQL code gets inputted into vulnerable sites and can destroy entire databases.  

•    Cross-site scripting
Also known as XSS, cross-site scripting is when hackers find vulnerabilities within legitimate sites and inject malicious code. This code can manipulate and change the user interface with fake alerts, logins, and site redirections while making them look completely real. Once someone enters their credentials or other sensitive information into one of these fake areas created by the hacker, the cybercriminal now has full access to that account information, and it has been compromised.

How to Tackle These Attacks

Secure Remote Access
It is critical to have network firewalls, endpoint protection, good password hygiene and other security measures in place to ensure your remote access is secure. Without these proper measures, remote access could be an easy access point for hackers.

Create Asset Inventory
Keeping an up-to-date inventory of all your network assets will guarantee protection across the board without any of your assets slipping through the cracks. 

Identify and Patch Vulnerabilities
To discover vulnerabilities within your system, you can utilize tools that target risky devices and sort them bast on their risk level. From there you will want to increase your security with firmware updates. Without detection, you are leaving your devices open for attacks. 

Detect Anomalies 
Automated detection solutions offer us 24/7 monitoring and detection of anomalies and suspicious activity within the network. 

Combine OT and IT Networks
When you combine and manage your Operational Technology and Information Technology networks as a unit, security risks associated with connected industrial control systems drop. 


It can seem overwhelming and time consuming to act on all of these steps alone, but the good news is, you don’t have to. We can take that burden off your shoulders and have our dedicated team get to work on improving your business’ security posture. Contact us to learn more about protecting your critical infrastructure.

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