At Energize Ventures, we believe that software can be a powerful tool driving the transition of energy and sustainable industry. There is an important digital layer that allows electricity grids, transportation networks, data centers, manufacturing plants, and telecommunication providers to operate massive complex systems efficiently. Hardware, software, and advanced data analytics solutions combine to operate and improve the world around us. The way we interact with assets — whether that is wind turbines, substations, assembly robots, or our bank accounts — is digital.
Today, anything that can be optimized through software could also be weaponized through software. Having a strong cybersecurity posture is crucial for critical infrastructure. The unfortunate truth is that our national infrastructure is a major target for adversaries seeking to disrupt our way of life. According to a Ponemon Institute report, three-quarters of energy companies and utilities have experienced at least one recent data breach. McKinsey estimates that while industrial firms spend 7% to 11% of their revenue on IT deployments and maintenance, they spend less than 1% on cybersecurity to protect those investments!
So, how has the industrial cybersecurity landscape changed in the last year?
More Entry Points: The attack surface has changed. Traditionally analog-based industries were forced to accelerate their digital roadmaps in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many operations had to become “digital first” to accommodate remote access and control. IT professionals from utilities and power operators who swore they would never buy software as a service are now migrating to hybrid stacks and multi-cloud architectures. This complexity and fragmentation has led to lack of visibility. The “attack surface” is much broader.
Growth in the Three V’s: Volume, vulnerability, and variety of endpoints. Network complexity leads to vulnerability. Nowadays, connected devices are everywhere. From phones and tablets to sensors, smart meters, and security cameras, the modern industrial floor is full of digital tools. Often, lighter IoT devices have poorer security parameters and can be used as a back door to gain entrance into networks. Visibility is the first step to improve cybersecurity posture — yet many industrial CISOs today still lack adequate tools to identify and manage connected devices on their networks.
The Great Convergence: Operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT). The “boundary” is no longer defined by the corporate network as operating assets (wind turbines, manufacturing robots, etc.) and IoT devices make up a majority of the technology surface. In the industrial space, OT assets also tend to be older, longer-lived machines, many of which were not designed with connectivity and digital operations in mind. A decade ago, operational initiatives and purchase decisions were made primarily at the plant-level (including security); today, VPs of IT and CISOs have budget control over enterprise-wide cybersecurity deployments. As modern threats often move horizontally from IT systems to OT systems, solutions must integrate both to adequately protect the network.
How are industrial CISOs and CIOs prioritizing resources in 2021? Industrial cybersecurity teams have shifted budget from “protect” (traditional firewalls, VPNs, etc.) to “assume breach”. After conversations with more than a dozen budget owners in the Energize network, we are focusing our efforts on the following areas:
The last few years have shown us the importance of resiliency: preparation, flexibility, and response in the face of unforeseen circumstances. As the energy and industrial sectors continue to digitize, it is crucial for them to maintain strong cybersecurity postures to prevent and withstand potentially catastrophic events. If you are working on these areas, we’d love to be in touch — reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to kick off the conversation.