Cyber attacks against energy and utilities firms occur in enterprise not critical infrastructure

Cyber attack on company

The majority of cyber attacks on energy and utility firms do not occur in the critical infrastructure of the firm, but inside the IT networks.

According to a report by Vectra, such attacks are planned and orchestrated often months in advance rather than by chancers launching an off-the-cuff attack.

According to the research company, Russian and other nation state criminals are accessing the critical infrastructure through under-protected networks, highlighting that this entry point needs to be better secured in the first place.

It added that the sophisticated attacks are commonly planned and then last for a few months, with criminals watching how the infrastructure works before launching the attack.

To get into the network, hackers commonly use malware and spear-phishing techniques to trick employees into providing access. They can then use administrator rights to watch and gather data.

"The covert abuse of administrative credentials provides attackers with unconstrained access to critical infrastructure systems and data," said David Monahan, managing research director of security and risk management at Enterprise Management Associates. "This is one of the most crucial risk areas in the cyberattack lifecycle."

But these methods of breaking into energy and utility company systems can have a huge impact on the organisation and that's why it's vital businesses implement traffic monitoring tools to track the activity on a network.

"When attackers move laterally inside a network, it exposes a larger attack surface that increases the risk of data acquisition and exfiltration," said Branndon Kelley, CIO of American Municipal Power said. "It's imperative to monitor all network traffic to detect these and other attacker behaviors early and consistently."

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.