InfoSec 2011: Energy firms pummelled by DDoS attacks

Critical infrastructure

Critical infrastructure providers (CIPs) have admitted to being consistently pounded by Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, a McAfee report has shown.

IT PRO saw some of the headline figures two months ago when we managed to see a preview of the report, showing eight in 10 CIPs surveyed said they had faced a significant DDoS attack in 2010.

The full report now shows the sheer scale of attacks, with 29 per cent of critical infrastucture providers surveyed saying they were being hit by "large scale" DDoS attacks multiple times each month.

Almost two-thirds said such DDoS strikes had hit operations "in some way," indicating the severity of the problem facing CIP firms.

"In the 21st century, everyone is a target," Raj Samani, chief technology officer at McAfee, told IT PRO at the InfoSecurity 2011 conference today in London.

"There is always the potential of an incident do we as UK citizens expect our privately regulated energy industries to be enforced and tied to Government regulation to ensure these things don't happen? That's a big question we need to ask ourselves."

Samani said the industry needs "to get away from the motive and focus on the impact" of DDoS attacks on critical infrastructure.

CIPs themselves need to understand the importance of security by design, he said. The McAfee report showed the majority of those looking to connect to the smart grid had no plans to implement additional security measures to cover that process.

"Many organisations do recognise the fact they are a target, but what our results suggest is they all need to understand the potential impact of not implementing security by design," Samani added.

As for competition in providing CIPs with security solutions, Samani said McAfee was more concerned about beating the cyber criminals than with what other vendors were doing.

"Vendors aren't our competition. The bad guys are," he added.

Stuxnet was listed as the most significant threat affecting CIPs to date - something which has proven doubters wrong about the possibilities of cyber attacks, Samani said.

Read on for the big news and interviews coming out of InfoSecurity 2011 this week.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.