Ever come across the humour of technology competition—who’s big? The joke goes this way: a social media giant claims the credit of evolving the whole of mankind by connecting the netizens; then an email comes forward and asks, ‘if I’d not have been there, would you exist?’ The next moment the internet comes forward and says what is your role without me? Finally, electricity comes into the scene, pins everyone down and utters nothing – everything is understood!
Truly speaking, electricity builds the foundation of every technological advancement. The entire world is facing immense demand for more power and energy every day. The energy consumption rate is growing upto 2% globally per year. It is the fastest growing energy among the rest. To ensure uninterrupted energy supply, nations depend on their own natural sources like bio-fuels to meet their needs. Sometimes the resources are imported with the help of Government initiatives. Therefore, it is obvious for utilities to be in good financial shape and the critical infrastructure – be it of power supplies, water management systems or any other essential services – should be secure from any untoward IT incident.
Why Critical Infrastructure (Utilities) is targeted?
Digitalization has forced power houses, nuclear plants, oil & gas organizations and coal mines to adopt new technologies like ICS (Industrial Control System), RPA (Robotic Process Automation), Data Analytics and even cloud computing. For this, there is a huge expansion (both Geographical & Internal) of IT infrastructure to manage the immense workload.
A large number of privileged accounts with elevated rights to mission critical systems are provisioned to access the same. There are numerous segregations of operational roles in the energy and utility industry, and hence privileged rights are required to manage and monitor the tasks seamlessly. Quite often the IT team creates new identities on an adhoc basis, but eventually, the overall vigilance of those Ids and their activities goes casual. It creates unnecessary chaos in the network, results in insecure access controls, and thereby invites chances of system/ data exploitation. Today cyber crooks are finding this industry as a ‘new goldmine’ of critical information. This industry has turned cyber vulnerable due to several reasons.
- Frequent adoption of advanced technologies to speed up productivity without adequate privileged access controls
- Inadequate mechanisms to assess and fix IT security vulnerabilities
- No robust solution to secure critical infrastructure
- Absence of continuous monitoring of the IT operations or supply chain
- Non-compliance loopholes
- Gradual increase of insider threats
- Poor awareness programs and Zero maintenance of security culture
If any utility faces any cyber incident, there are long-term consequences.
- Long unwanted Disruption in the production
- Chances of Critical Information loss
- Huge (some immeasurable) financial losses
- Face the wrath of legal formalities
- Compliance Penalties
- Malign of goodwill
- Additional cost of rearranging IT infrastructure
What could be done?
Cyber-attacks are not just costly but also big blows to the nation’s economy. And for power and utilities, it affects the lives of millions of people. There is no better option for energy and utility firms but to abide by the stringent regulatory mandates without hampering their day-to-day business operations.
Specifically, the access control mechanism should be robust. Insiders, compromised third-party end-users and sophisticated cyber-criminals typically target privileged accounts. They snoop on privileged credentials. Once they acquire it, they hijack privileged accounts. In the past there have been many incidents where organized cyber-criminals disrupted power supplies and water management systems. Vulnerable access controls in most cases encourage cyber-criminals.
A robust Privileged Access Management (PAM) solution such as ARCON | PAM provides necessary safeguards to protect and secure privileged access and credentials. The solution offers a centralized engine to govern privileged users where role and rule-based authorization policy, controls and monitors privileged users inside the network. And any suspicious privileged session is detected in real-time to ensure proactive security.
Let us see how ARCON | PAM can address the Utilities’ challenges mentioned above:
- Role and rule-base access to the privileged accounts is a must in energy & utilities. It will not just manage and monitor the users as per their profiles but also avoid unprecedented threats coming from malicious insiders. If the critical systems of the production and operational units are accessed without role and rule-based privileges, then it might wreak havoc. A single cyber incident can put the entire production into a standstill. ARCON | PAM’s robust access control mechanism identifies unauthorized access in the network and prevents it from obtaining critical access.
- ARCON | PAM offers just-in-time privilege elevation, which helps to revoke standing privileges after the task is over. Moreover, it becomes easy for the IT team to ensure security with limited access to critical systems or applications. As a result, it nullifies the chances of successful unauthorized access in the network.
- ARCON | PAM frequently randomizes all critical privileged credentials and helps to store them safely in the Password Vault. In this age of automation, most of the organizations avoid manual control of passwords and search for automated password management. ARCON’s PAM solution provides a digital password vault, adaptive authentication and dashboard for complete IT governance. It assists the IT risk management team to continuously check and assess the vulnerable areas in the privileged access environment.
- Staying compliant to the international regulatory standards is very crucial for the utility industry. Today most (if not all) of the organizations seek and verify compliance before any kind of business collaboration. While any Government remains sceptical about their GDP, energy and utilities play a pivotal role in improving the economic standards of any nation. ARCON | Privileged Access Management (PAM) helps organizations to follow the mandates by default and avoid any non-compliance penalties. It gives a message of assurance and service reliability.
- ARCON | PAM offers workflow management that enables the IT security and compliance management to streamline the access approval process across the privileged access environment. With the help of predefined IT policies, organizations can enhance their IT administrative and operational efficiency.
Today, critical infrastructure is facing enormous cyber threats. Access controls, especially privileged access control must be robust. With 15 years of experience and expertise in securing the critical infrastructure of large utility companies across the globe, ARCON | PAM helps the IT teams to reinforce control mechanisms to ensure security, reliability, and productivity.