Critical Infrastructure – a Prime Target

Critical Infrastructure – a Prime Target

The inaugural Critical Infrastructure Annual Risk Review by the Cyber and Infrastructure Security Centre (CISC) highlights that critical infrastructure in Australia is a prime target for malicious cyber activity, posing a significant threat to both private and public institutions.  

As providers of Cyber Threat Intelligence services to a number of Critical Infrastructure organisations, the Ravinn intelligence team are tasked with staying on top of these threats including identifying emerging threats and targetable vulnerabilities.   

We’ve summarised key points from the CISC report:

Recent incidents involving information theft have underscored the vulnerability to cyber threats, and beyond personal data breaches, the country’s critical infrastructure can be directly disrupted, manipulated, or destroyed due to malicious cyber activity. Threat actors may exploit system weaknesses to gain access to valuable sovereign research and gather insights into societal, economic, and technological vulnerabilities. 

The level of risk fluctuates with changing threat environments, with critical infrastructure potentially becoming a legitimate conflict target, impacting sector functionality, and eroding public trust in institutions.  

Some of the major risks outlined in the report include:

  • Malicious Cyber Activity: Critical infrastructure in Australia is a prime target for malicious cyber activities. Both private and public institutions are vulnerable to attacks from financially motivated and state-sponsored actors. 
  • Information Theft Incidents: In the past year, several high-profile incidents involving information theft have demonstrated the susceptibility to cyber threats. This extends beyond personal data breaches. 
  • Physical Disruption, Manipulation, or Destruction: Australia’s critical infrastructure is at risk of tangible disruption, manipulation, or destruction due to malicious cyber activities. This encompasses a broad range of critical infrastructure sectors. 
  • Sophisticated Cyber Operations: Cyber operations are becoming increasingly sophisticated, including lateral movement between systems, which can have devastating consequences with cyber actors continuing to scan and exploit vulnerabilities across interconnected critical infrastructure networks, with increasing sophistication in targeting. 
  • Vulnerabilities in Converging Technologies: The convergence of Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT), along with the rollout of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, introduces vulnerabilities. 
  • Targeting Third-party and Managed Service Providers: Third-party and managed service providers, as well as physical and digital supply chains, are equally important and can be targeted to disrupt critical infrastructure. 
  • Human Error and Poorly Managed Systems: Human error, especially in poorly managed corporate systems with remote access, can make attractive targets for extortion, disruption, or espionage. 
  • Interconnected Systems and Supply Chains: Australia’s critical infrastructure systems are highly interconnected, providing social and economic benefits, but also increasing the risk. Every interconnected device, technology, or system can potentially be an avenue for access. 
  • Potential for Cascade Effects: A cyber incident targeting critical infrastructure could have major consequences, potentially leading to widespread disruptions across key sectors. A disruption in one area of the ecosystem may cascade through others. 
  • Rapid Technology Development: The speed of new technology development and implementation has the potential to catch planners by surprise. Risk management plans need to anticipate shorter timeframes for introduction and identify potential new areas of vulnerability. 

Australia’s highly interconnected critical infrastructure systems offer social and economic benefits but also elevate risk with each interconnected device, technology, or system presenting a potential avenue for accessing critical infrastructure entities. Any cyber incident targeting critical infrastructure could have major cascading consequences, potentially leading to widespread disruptions across key sectors.  

Good cybersecurity practices and secure-by-design principles can enhance protection against cyber intrusion and improve recovery times after an incident, but to best prepare for and then respond to any cyber incident, it is essential to be aware of threats both current and emerging and at the strategic, operational and tactical level.  Implementing a structured Threat Intelligence program can allow any organisation to stay a step ahead of the enemy. 

The Ravinn intelligence team has been grown from a background in military intelligence and national security, and we now apply our deep experience and unique tradecraft in protecting our clients from all threats.

Get in touch with us to see how we can help you with your intelligence, threat and vulnerability management needs. 

Read the full review here:  Critical Infrastructure Annual Risk Review