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Securing critical infrastructure



Securing critical infrastructure

The critical infrastructure that society depends on must continue operating to ensure the health, safety and well-being of all communities. Yet protecting these facilities is becoming increasingly difficult. The energy and utilities sector, in particular, is in the midst of many changes that are creating new security challenges. 

Investments in renewable energy sources and the convergence among oil, gas and power utilities have resulted in rapid change and expansion. Industry leaders must now consider how to secure assets across a dispersed and growing territory. Adding to these challenges is the threat of cyberattacks. Critical infrastructure must not only guard against intrusions from organized groups but also unintentional vulnerabilities introduced by employees or contractors. At the same time, the industry is becoming increasingly regulated and security teams continue to modernize their compliance practices.

Meeting these diverse challenges is complex. One way critical infrastructure companies can address evolving security needs is to adopt a unified security system, simplifying operations and compliance.  

Reducing response times and resources

During an emergency or a potential security threat, time is one of the most critical components. This includes the time required to respond to an event and the time needed to find and follow procedures. Teams also want to reduce downtime and the substantial costs that are commonly associated with it. 

A unified system consolidates data and displays it all within the same user interface. Thus, it’s easier for teams to quickly gather information and respond to incidents much faster. Unification includes not only basic elements such as video and access control but also Internet of Things (IoT) devices, third-party integrations, and outcome-based applications, such as automated workflow management and simplified compliance reporting. 

When these layered systems and technology are unified, organizations can efficiently manage their security and operations from a single interface. Features like customizable notifications, digitized standard operating procedures (SOPs), and automated workflows can further shrink the time it takes to identify and respond to an incident. 

Assisting with compliance

Keeping up with varying reporting methods and evolving compliance requirements can also be challenging. Without a unified system, security teams have to piece together information, evidence and resources from many different portals and repositories. Having everything in a central location makes it much easier to pull comprehensive reports, generate system audits and set up reminders or notifications to stay on top of routine security tasks. 

Digitized SOPs can also minimize human error by guiding operators through interactive workflows or sending reminders to complete time-sensitive tasks. They ensure that all security teams regardless of shift, seniority, or location, are operating according to standardized SOPs. This is especially important when exporting and sharing workflow diagrams and incident reports with auditors. 

Likewise, since ensuring compliance can be complicated, organizations are beginning to shift toward automation. The human element remains essential, but thoughtful automations guided by specific use cases can provide additional support.

Reducing cybersecurity vulnerabilities

With renewed momentum for investments in renewable and clean energy, an added layer of complexity is acquired. As new sites and facilities are being inherited, each may use different systems, devices and operational technologies.

Keeping various systems cybersecure and maintained is challenging. Greater connectivity of systems means that a vulnerable device can become a gateway to another system or an organization’s data and sensitive information. Cybercriminals may gain access by exploiting a poorly protected camera, unencrypted communication, or out-of-date firmware.

Security systems can no longer focus solely on physical threats. Hardened solutions with built-in cybersecurity tools help protect other systems and information connected to the network against criminal cyber activity.

Cybersecure and resilient software solutions that have security and data protection in mind, simplify software updates, patch management, and threat assessments as needed. The system can also keep tabs on connected non-proprietary hardware, sending reminders when passwords need updating or devices are offline. The system can even create automated workflows to trigger a network diagnostic or audit of what components fail.

With legacy systems, not only are features and functionality limited, but security vulnerabilities exponentially increase. Some older systems may no longer be supported or patched to protect against evolving cyber threats.

Power of modern, unified solutions

Transitioning from older, outdated systems doesn’t have to be as heavy of a lift or happen all at once. Security leaders may be able to keep a lot of existing hardware and wiring after adopting an open architecture solution.  Ask a software partner for help assessing the hardware to ensure all devices are from companies that are known to be trusted sources and vetted by cybersecurity experts. 

As the energy and utilities sector evolves, organizations have the opportunity to build stronger physical security strategies to improve their operations, keep pace with regulations and defend against complex cyber threats. Working in partnership with trusted physical security vendors will help protect the nation’s critical infrastructure.

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