Majority of Industrial Enterprises Face Increase in Cyber Threats Since COVID-19 Pandemic Began
New global report from Claroty shows the importance of IT and OT interconnectivity in order to advance digital initiatives and thrive in a post-pandemic future
Claroty, the global leader in operational technology (OT) security, released new research which revealed that a majority of U.S. industrial enterprises (53%) have seen an increase in cybersecurity threats since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The independent global survey of 1,100 full-time information technology (IT) and OT security professionals who own, operate, or otherwise support critical infrastructure components within large enterprises, explores how their concerns, experiences, and attitudes have shifted since the crisis began in March.
According to the survey report, The Critical Convergence of IT and OT Security in a Global Crisis, over half (51%) of U.S.-based respondents say their organization is now more of a target for cyber criminals compared to before COVID-19, with a striking 67% having seen cyber criminals use new tactics to target their organization.
Impact of COVID-19 on IT/OT Convergence
COVID-19 has accelerated the convergence of IT and OT networks, as 65% of U.S. respondents say their IT and OT networks have become more interconnected since the pandemic began, and 73% expect them to become even more interconnected as a result of it. While IT/OT convergence unlocks business value in terms of operations efficiency, performance, and quality of services, it can also be detrimental because threats – both targeted and non-targeted – can move freely between IT and OT environments.
However, security gaps between IT and OT remain. Sixty-two percent of U.S. respondents have found it more challenging to collaborate with their IT or OT counterparts during the pandemic. In addition to this, 44% believe that their OT networks are less secure than their IT networks.
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Additional Key Findings and Analysis
- Adapting to disruption: Having a crisis plan that enables secure remote access plays a vital role in organizations’ ability to adapt quickly and safely to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is reflected in the commonality among the 25% of U.S. respondents whose top cybersecurity executive did not have a pre-existing response plan, the 26% whose organizations struggled with the shift to a dispersed workforce, and the 22% who said their organization did not have a pre-existing secure remote access solution (aside from VPN, which is not secure enough for OT) that allowed employees to securely work from a remote location.
- Preparing for future disruptions: However, an overwhelming majority of U.S. respondents (84%) expressed confidence that their organization is prepared, from a cybersecurity perspective, for another major disruption down the road. Additionally, 88% report that their organization has updated its cybersecurity crisis response plan to reflect a more remote workforce.
- Cybersecurity leadership: Cybersecurity executives, including CISOs, have been thrust into the spotlight since the start of the pandemic, tasked with implementing new technologies to ensure their organization’s networks and employees are fully secure. U.S. respondents recognize their hard work, as 60% believe that their CISO has shown good leadership. Furthermore, 86% of respondents say their organization’s leadership made cybersecurity a priority during the pandemic, and 83% say CISOs have provided proper training resources for working within a dispersed organization.
- Sector-specific threat landscape: According to U.S. respondents, the top five industrial sectors most vulnerable to a cyber attack are manufacturing (15.40%), building management systems (12.80%), electric utilities (12.60%), pharmaceuticals, (12.40%) and consumer goods (12.00%). The narrow differences between these rankings suggest that industrial sectors across the board are prime targets at elevated risk.
“This data clearly indicates that there has been an increase in cyber threats to industrial enterprises globally since the start of the pandemic, proving just how crucial it is to reduce risk by understanding the threats to OT security and improving collaboration between IT and OT teams,” said Yaniv Vardi, CEO of Claroty. “With the transition to remote work, many organizations have increased their focus on OT and IoT security and worked towards accelerating their IT/OT convergence. This will empower them to unlock business value and charge ahead with greater confidence even in the face of disruptions.”
Claroty improves the availability, safety, and reliability of OT assets and networks within industrial enterprises and critical infrastructure. The Claroty Platform provides comprehensive OT asset and network visibility, segmentation, vulnerability management, threat detection, risk assessment, and Secure Remote Access capabilities (SRA) — all within a single, agentless solution. Unique to Claroty, SRA provides a single, secure, and clientless interface through which all external users connect prior to performing software upgrades, periodic maintenance, and other support activities on assets within OT networks. This is all enriched by the company’s award-winning OT security research department.
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