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From Bytes to Insights: Essential Advice From Our Podcast

One of the most overlooked areas of cyber security is Operational Technology (OT) security. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been discussing this subject in our podcast, ‘The Keys 2 Your Digital Kingdom’ with the help of Cyolo’s OT Strategist, Kevin Kumpf. He brings with him a wealth of knowledge on securing OT environments, and in this blog we’ll be looking into key takeaways from our discussions.

The Importance of Securing OT Environments

OT security involves protecting the hardware and software systems that monitor and control physical devices, processes, and events in real-world operations. Unlike IT (or Information Technology), which manages data and information, OT influences physical processes such as manufacturing, energy distribution, and transportation. 

OT environments keep essential services and infrastructure functioning, managing everything from power grids and water treatment plants to transportation networks. Any OT security breach could result in severe disruptions, affecting public safety and national security. As Kumpf explained in a recent episode, “These systems, when they go down, can cause catastrophic things. The power grid, for example… There is no back up…. People can die… It’s just a very dangerous area where you do not want downtime.”

The importance of OT security is underscored by the need to ensure business continuity. Any disruptions could halt production and disrupt supply chains around the world, resulting in significant financial losses. Kumpf points out, “IT is coming into the OT world,” and with IT and OT systems becoming integrated, the number of vulnerabilities has grown. One of the biggest shifts in the OT world is that more parties are involved in maintaining systems, locally and remotely. An approach bridging IT and OT is crucial for security strategies, ensuring operational efficiency and resilience against attacks.

Securing Industrial Assets

The second episode of our OT security miniseries focused on industrial settings, where cybersecurity and machine safety is vital. Industrial environments, such as factories and power plants, rely on OT systems to manage and control machinery and other processes. This makes them susceptible to cyber threats, which can threaten the safe operation of machinery and impact physical operations. 

As cyber threats become more sophisticated, the repercussions of a cyber attack grow. An incident in an industrial environment could result in machinery malfunctions, a halt in production – or catastrophic safety incidents. When it comes to protecting these environments, challenges include protecting legacy systems, implementing real-time security measures, and ensuring machinery can operate without disruptions.

To reduce these risks, organisations must adopt cyber security strategies that encompass IT and OT. This includes thorough risk assessments and enhancing monitoring and detection capabilities to respond to threats in real-time. This way, organisations can protect their machinery and maintain a safe and secure production environment at the same time.

OT In Action

Industrial environments aren’t the only areas in which OT security is critical. The travel, logistics, and supply chain management sectors also face a range of security vulnerabilities. In these sectors, an OT security incident could lead to widespread disruption and significant economic impact. In the travel industry for example, OT systems manage everything from flight operations to baggage handling. A cyber attack could cause delays, cancellations, and even compromise passenger safety.

As for logistics and supply chain management, OT systems oversee the movement of goods around the globe. As Kumpf noted, “We’re not housing warehouses of inventory any more – everything is just in time, built at the moment, shipped at the moment.” Disruptions can lead to delays, increased costs, and shortages – and in the past few years, supply chain cyber attacks have increased. Between 2022 and 2023, the average number of supply chain data breaches increased by 26%, according to BlueVoyant. Securing OT in logistics is crucial to maintain the flow of goods and services that global economies depend on.

The Challenges of OT Security

OT security presents a range of challenges. Much of this is due to the widespread use of legacy systems lacking modern security features. One of the biggest challenges is the amount of users with third-party access. As noted by our partner Cyolo, the average organisation allows 77 third-party vendors to access their OT environments, while 25% of businesses give access to over 100. Also, as many OT environments have little tolerance for delays, there are limited opportunities for maintenance or patching. 

The proliferation of alternative energy sources has transformed the sector. The latest episode of our podcast deals with this topic. As Infosec K2K’s Stephan Zimmerman explained, “One of the biggest changes we’ve seen in the last 10 or so years… is the change from the very centralised production of energy to the more distributed production of energy. It is much harder to protect the entire grid and all the entities within that are now supplying into the grid, such as batteries and solar panels.” 

Each of these is a new entry point for cyber criminals, but it’s not just cyber criminals threatening OT security – in the first half of 2023, the US Department of Energy identified 95 human-caused incidents targeting the electricity sector. The sector’s facing threats more sophisticated than ever, and organisations need to step up their OT security.

Securing OT environments is complex but essential in our increasingly interconnected world. The insights shared in our podcast highlight the importance of OT security, as well as its challenges. For more in-depth discussions and expert cyber advice, tune in to our podcast. With new episodes coming soon, we’ll help you stay informed and stay secure.

Whatever solution you’re looking for, we can help. The experts at Infosec K2K can offer you specialist guidance, and help you find the product that’s the best fit for you.

Get in touch with us to find out more about how we can help you.

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The End of Passwords: How Passwordless Authentication is Reshaping Security

Despite how much the world of cyber security has evolved over the past few decades, one thing has remained constant – the password. However, as cyber threats are becoming increasingly sophisticated, this once-reliable method of authentication is falling under scrutiny. Passwords are set to be replaced by passwordless authentication, which is both more secure and user-friendly. Here at Infosec K2K, we’re at the forefront of this shift, and understand not just the reasons behind it but also its profound implications for Identity and Access Management (IAM).

The Predicament of Passwords

Passwords have long been a cornerstone of online security. Whether they’re accessing their email accounts, social media accounts, or banking websites, users rely on passwords to safeguard their most sensitive information. However, the weaknesses of passwords have become increasingly apparent in recent years. In 2019, for example, research by the UK’s NCSC revealed that 23.2 million victims of data breaches around the world had used ‘123456’ as a password.

One of the primary concerns surrounding passwords is the human factor. Studies have shown that people tend to choose weak passwords, reuse them across multiple accounts, and share them with others. According to Google’s Online Security Survey, 65% of people surveyed reused the same password for multiple accounts. What’s more, criminals can compromise passwords with techniques like phishing, brute force attacks, and social engineering.

The Rise of Passwordless Authentication

Recognising the limitations of passwords, industry leaders including some of the world’s biggest tech firms are leading the transition towards passwordless authentication. Last year, Apple, Google and Microsoft announced they were committing to passwordless authentication. Apple has already introduced passkeys, which can be used instead of passwords. Instead of relying on traditional passwords, passwordless authentication relies on alternative factors to verify users’ identities, and there are several methods.

  • Token-Based Systems – One popular approach to passwordless authentication is token-based systems. These generate a unique one-time code that users need to enter in order to access their accounts. Users receive these tokens via text message, email, or from hardware devices. By eliminating the need for static passwords, token-based systems can reduce the risk of credential theft and unauthorised access.
  • Biometric Authentication – Biometric authentication is another key component of the passwordless movement. Technologies such as fingerprint recognition, facial recognition, and even iris scanning enable users to authenticate themselves using their own unique physical traits. Biometric authentication not only enhances security, by linking a user’s online identity to their physical traits, but it also offers a more intuitive user experience, and companies like Mastercard plan to replace passwords with biometrics.
  • Behavioural Analytics – A step up from biometrics, this relies on a user’s unique characteristics. Rather than relying on physical features, behavioural analytics measures traits like users’ typing speed, how they’re moving their mouse, or the kind of device they’re using. By establishing a baseline of normal behaviour, behavioural analytics can detect anomalies or possible threats in real time, and also offers continuous authentication of a user, even after they’ve logged in.

The Implications for IAM

This shift towards passwordless authentication has many implications for modern businesses’ IAM strategies. Traditional IAM solutions have revolved around managing and securing passwords. However, in an increasingly passwordless world, IAM strategies will need to adapt and accommodate alternative authentication methods – while at the same time ensuring robust security and offering a seamless user experience.

The biggest benefit of passwordless authentication is that it improves security, as it reduces the risk of password-related vulnerabilities like phishing attacks. With the help of tools like biometrics or multi-factor authentication (MFA), organisations can establish stronger authentication mechanisms that are resistant to traditional password-based threats. IAM solutions can use these solutions to more easily verify users’ identities and reduce the chance of unauthorised access. 

Passwordless authentication also helps to improve the user experience. By eliminating the need to remember lengthy passwords and frequently change them, passwordless authentication simplifies the login process. This, in turn, improves productivity and user satisfaction. Ultimately, passwordless authentication can lead the way to more efficient and resilient IAM frameworks.

Challenges and Considerations

Although there are many benefits to passwordless authentication, it also brings a number of challenges that firms need to address. Firstly, implementing passwordless authentication requires integration with existing systems. Organisations will have to ensure that their IAM solutions support passwordless authentication methods before they start using it. Here at Infosec K2K, we offer a wide range of IAM Implementation and Support services. From developing IAM strategies and roadmaps to integrating a solution with your system, we’ll ensure a smooth transition.

Solutions like biometric authentication also come with privacy concerns surrounding the collection and storage of sensitive biometric data. Any business that uses biometrics will need to ensure they have robust privacy measures to safeguard users’ or customers’ biometric information, and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements like GDPR.

Despite the benefits of passwordless authentication, some users may be hesitant to embrace new authentication methods. Businesses may have to invest in user education and awareness initiatives to promote passwordless authentication before they move away from passwords entirely.

The end of passwords isn’t just a theoretical concept, but is already shaping the future of cyber security. Passwordless authentication offers a strong alternative to traditional passwords, boosting cyber defences while at the same time ensuring a more seamless user experience. At Infosec K2K, we’re committed to helping organisations of all sizes navigate this transition away from passwords, and help them make their digital assets more secure than ever before.

Whatever solution you’re looking for, we can help. The experts at Infosec K2K can offer you specialist guidance, and help you find the product that’s the best fit for you.

Get in touch with us to find out more about how we can help you.