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How are industrial enterprises faring with the rise of cyber threats?

The majority of industrial enterprises face an increase in cyber threats since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to a new report from Claroty titled The Critical Convergence of IT and OT Security in a Global Crisis.

The survey found a majority (56%) of IT and OT security professionals at industrial enterprises have seen an increase in cybersecurity threats since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

Additionally, 70% have seen cyber criminals using new tactics to target their organisations in this timeframe.

Across the globe, COVID-19 has led cyber criminals to use new tactics and organisations to become more vulnerable to cyber attacks, with 56% of global respondents saying that their organisation has experienced more cyber security threats since the pandemic began.

Further, almost three-fourths (72%) reported that their jobs have become more challenging.

COVID-19 has clearly had an impact on IT/OT convergence, as two-thirds (67%) say that their IT and OT networks have become more interconnected since the pandemic began and more than 75% expect they will become even more interconnected as a result of it.

While IT/OT convergence unlocks business value in terms of operations efficiency, performance, and quality of services, it can also be detrimental because threats - both targeted and non-targeted - can move freely between IT and OT environments, Claroty states.

Responses from IT and OT security professionals in Australia and New Zealand reveal that almost 65% said their IT and OT networks are ‘completely connected’, yet only 8% are prioritising OT security.

In addition, 81% agree IT and OT have become more connected and 92% agree they will become even more connected as a result of the pandemic.

Finally, 81% have found the collaboration between the IT and OT teams within their organisation more challenging during the pandemic.

In terms of industries, globally the respondents ranked pharmaceutical, oil and gas, electric utilities, manufacturing, and building management systems as the top five most vulnerable to attack.

Most regions followed similar patterns, identifying three to five industries clustered closely toward the top of the list.

Claroty CEO Yaniv Vardi says, “While we would be short-sighted to think that we won’t have more challenges as we continue to face unknowns from this pandemic, protecting critical infrastructure is especially important in a time of crisis.

“As large enterprises are trying to improve their productivity by connecting more OT and IoT devices and remotely accessing their industrial networks, they are also increasing their exposure as a result.

"OT security needs to be brought to the fore and made a priority for all organisations. Attackers know that IT networks are covered with cyber security solutions so they’re moving to exploit vulnerabilities in OT to gain access to enterprise networks.

"Not protecting OT is like protecting a house with state-of-the-art security and alarm systems, but then leaving the front door open.”

Claroty's report is based on a global, independent survey of 1,100 full-time IT and OT security professionals who own, operate, or otherwise support critical infrastructure components within large enterprises across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.