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Half of cybersecurity incidents in industrial networks happen due to employee errors, reveals Kaspersky

According to Kaspersky’s latest report “State of Industrial Cybersecurity 2019”, employee errors or unintentional actions were behind 52% of incidents affecting operational technology and industrial control system (OT/ICS) networks last year.

In a press release on Friday (23 Aug), Kaspersky noted that the growing complexity of industrial infrastructures demands more advanced protection and skills. However, organisations are experiencing a shortage of professionals to handle new threats and low awareness among employees.

What’s more, the digitalisation of industrial networks and adoption of Industry 4.0 standards are in the pipeline for many industrial companies. Four out of five organisations (81%) see operational network digitalisation as an important or very important task for this year. Nonetheless, there are associated cybersecurity risks for all the benefits that connected infrastructure brings.

While OT/ICS cybersecurity is becoming a top priority for industrial companies, as confirmed by the majority (87%) of respondents in the study, they need to invest in dedicated measures and have highly qualified professionals in order to achieve the necessary level of protection effectively. Even so, the study highlighted that despite stating it as a priority, only 57% of companies have the allocated budget for industrial cybersecurity.

Aside from budget constraints, there is also a question over skilled staff. The study revealed that organisations are not only experiencing a lack of cybersecurity experts with the right skills to manage protection for industrial networks, but are also worried that their OT/ICS network operators are not fully aware of the behavior that can cause cybersecurity breaches. These challenges make up the top two major concerns relating to cybersecurity management and go some way to explaining why employee errors cause half of all ICS incidents and also more serious targeted attacks.

Besides that, the study also pointed out that in almost half of companies (45%), the employees responsible for IT infrastructure security are also overseeing the security of OT/ ICS networks. Although operational and corporate networks are becoming increasingly connected, such approach may carry security risks as specialists on each side can have different approaches (37%) and goals (18%) when it comes to cybersecurity.

In addition to a technical and awareness boost for industrial cybersecurity, Kaspersky hinted that organisations also need to consider specific protection for Industrial IoT which can become highly connected externally, citing that almost half of companies (41%) are ready to connect their OT/ICS network to the cloud, using preventive maintenance or digital twins.

“This year’s study shows that companies are seeking to improve protection for industrial networks. However, this can only be achieved if they address the risks related to the lack of qualified staff and employee errors. Taking a comprehensive, multi-layered approach – which combines technical protection with regular training of IT security specialists and industrial network operators – will ensure networks remain protected from threats and skills stay up to date”, said Georgy Shebuldaev, Brand Manager at Kaspersky Industrial Cybersecurity.