Critical infrastructure organisations at risk of a security breach by 2025

By 2025, 30 percent of critical infrastructure organisations will experience a security breach that will result in the halting of an operation, or mission-critical cyber-physical system, according to Gartner.

The research and advisory company says that critical infrastructure security has become a primary concern for governments around the world, with the US, UK, EU, Canada and Australia each identifying sectors deemed ‘critical infrastructure’, for example, communications, transport, energy, water, healthcare and public facilities.

It says that in some countries, critical infrastructure is state-owned, while in others, like the US, private industry owns and operates a much larger portion of it.

Ruggero Contu, research director at Gartner, says in a statement that “Governments in many countries are now realising their national critical infrastructure has been an undeclared battlefield for decades. They are now making moves to mandate more security controls for the systems that underpin these assets.”

A Gartner survey earlier last year showed that 38 percent of respondents expected to increase spending on operational technology (OT) security by between five percent and 10 percent in 2021, with another eight percent of respondents predicting an increase of above 10 percent.

However, this may not be enough to counter underinvestment in this area over many years, according to Gartner.

“Besides the need to catch up, there is a growing number of increasingly sophisticated threats,” Contu said. “Owners and operators of critical infrastructure are also struggling to prepare for the coming increased oversight.”

Increased risk needs holistic security approach
Gartner says that over time, the technologies that underpin critical infrastructure have become more digitised and connected — either to enterprise IT systems and/or to each other — creating cyber-physical systems security risks. The result has been a substantial increase in the attack surface for hackers and bad actors of all kinds.

In critical infrastructure sectors, organisations need to be more concerned about real world hazards to humans and the environment, rather than information theft. Gartner predicts that by 2025, attackers will have weaponised a critical infrastructure cyber-physical system to successfully harm or kill humans.

The company recommends that security and risk management leaders in critical infrastructure sectors develop a holistic approach to security, so that IT, OT and Internet of Things security are managed in a coordinated effort.

“Security and risk management leaders should accelerate efforts to discover, map and assess the security posture of all cyber-physical systems in their environment,” says Contu.

“Invest in threat intelligence and join industry groups to stay apprised of security best practices, upcoming mandates and requests for inputs from government entities.”


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