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When the cyber weather forecast gets gloomy, everyone should get prepared

In the modern society computers are embedded everywhere and automation affects our daily lives in several ways. Networked computers control even the most critical infrastructures such as electricity, water distribution, and traffic. Our dependency on these networks also bring risks: we are more vulnerable than ever to cyber attacks. At worst cyber threats spreading via computer networks could weaken or even cripple our society.

In order to maintain cyber safety, professionals of various industry domains should get diverse training. Learning new skills enables preventing potential cyber attacks. It also helps to detect spying attempts toward critical corporations and civic functions.

Dark clouds hanging from the cyber sky

Cyber weather is revealed for example via active alerts on the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority’s web site. Cyber weather is said to be unstable for example when following warnings are in effect:

  • denial of service attacks

  • blackmailing malware

  • infected office files

  • spying attempts

  • hoax and scam messages

Ultimately it is up to the skills of stakeholders in charge of infrastructure services, whether the citizens get their electricity, clean water, fuel, heating, groceries, medicine, and other vital commodities regardless of the current cyber weather.

That being said, everyone should get personally prepared. In unstable cyber weather you shouldn’t trust even the messages coming from known business partners. MS Office attachments from a familiar company can contain Powershell commands added by an attacker. In such case even the high-quality security procedures of your company do not necessarily warn you.

Hopefully the thunder and the rain will quietly pass you by. After the threats have been investigated and neutralized, you can start to trust your business partners again.

Uncertainty is the new normal

We are already living in a constant threat of communication malfunctions and cyber security threats. Uncertainty has become the new normal. Only the ones who take this seriously are safe. It is risky to trust those who don’t care about security.

The infrastructure takes daily hits from cyber spying. Motives for spying vary: crippling computer networks, infiltrating electricity network control systems, blackmailing hospital personnel, or breaking into real estate remote management systems.

After spying attempts it becomes possible to actually enter the critical systems. Even the most secure systems can be hacked, if enough time and resources are available. Bad guys have the most modern attacking tools and services at their disposal, especially if the target is financially interesting enough for blackmailing.

The attacks are also tailored to match security systems and processes of the target. Focused attacks take advantage of any procedures bypassing the company’s firewalls. They can utilize for example employees’ privately used devices.

Better safe than sorry

Investing in cyber security skill development should be applied on all levels. Naturally the stakeholders of our most critical infrastructures and their know-how play a key role. However, it is necessary to ensure enough resources for various officials and support co-operation between them. Also the parliament should understand the widely spread security issues.

When the topics are as severe as mentioned in this blog post, it does not hurt to get prepared for the worst. In the case of a serious cyber attack breaking through our protective layers, what would happen and what should we do? Pre-emptive planning is in the core. For example:

  • carrying out cyber security testing for industrial systems

  • investing in critical backup systems

  • identifying and preventing illegal spying and attacks

  • countermeasure training and management

The weakest link can cause all protective layers to tumble. That is why development and pre-emptive actions must take place on all fronts. In any weather conditions, better safe than sorry.

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