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  • 24 April 2024
  • 5 min read

Top tips for employees to secure critical infrastructure organisations from cyber attacks

How can employees working in Critical National Infrastructure settings protect themselves and their organisation from cyber attacks, risks and threats?

Critical infrastructure organisations are prime targets for cyber-attacks. As cyber threats increase frequency and intensity, it is crucial for employees to be equipped with the knowledge and tools to safeguard against potential breaches.

In this article, we will explore top tips for employees to secure critical infrastructure organisations from cyber-attacks, emphasising the importance of training and awareness in fostering a culture of vigilance.

How CNI employees can stay safe from cyber attacks

  1. Segment Your Network to Avoid a Cascading Effect After Cyber Attacks: Segmenting your network is essential for preventing the spread of cyber-attacks. By dividing your network into separate zones, you can contain breaches and minimise the potential impact on critical systems. Implementing network segmentation strategies such as VLANs (Virtual Local Area Networks) and firewalls helps to restrict unauthorised access and limit lateral movement within the network. This is particularly important for CNI organisations as the impact of a far-reaching cyber-attack that spreads via a domino effect will not only have data theft implications but could even lead to loss of life and societal disruption.
  2. Train Third-Party Vendors/Suppliers on Relevant Risks and Threats: Third-party vendors and suppliers often have access to sensitive systems and data, making them potential weak points in your organisation's security posture. Cybercriminals will often target larger organisations via their partners or third-party suppliers, who are often left with subpar training and awareness levels. Providing comprehensive cyber security training to these external partners is paramount for ensuring they understand and adhere to your organisation's security policies and protocols. Establishing clear guidelines for secure data handling and communication helps to mitigate the risks associated with third-party relationships.
  3. Run Behavioural Surveys to Pinpoint Weak Departments and Gaps in Human Security: Behavioural surveys can provide valuable insights into employee awareness and adherence to cyber security best practices. By regularly assessing employee behaviours and attitudes towards security, organisations can identify weak departments and areas requiring additional training and reinforcement. Utilising tools such as TSC’s SABR survey (Security Awareness and Behaviour Research) can help organisations to gauge employee susceptibility to social engineering attacks and address knowledge gaps effectively. It provides tangible quality data that can be used in executive sessions, board buy-in initiatives and as a baseline at the start of your Raising Awareness and Culture journey.
  4. Encourage and Uphold Cyber Security Champions to Influence a Culture of Vigilance and Awareness: Building a strong cyber security culture starts with empowering individuals to become advocates for security within their organisations. By appointing cyber security champions from various departments, organisations can foster a sense of collective responsibility and promote a culture of vigilance and awareness. These champions serve as role models and mentors, encouraging their peers to prioritise security in their daily activities and decision-making processes.
  5. Continuous Security Monitoring and Auditing, Zero-Trust Network/Trust but Verify: Continuous security monitoring and auditing are essential for detecting and mitigating threats in real-time. Leveraging advanced threat detection technologies and employing a zero-trust network approach helps organisations adopt a proactive stance against cyber threats. By assuming that every user and device is a potential threat, organisations can implement stringent access controls and verification mechanisms to prevent unauthorised access and minimize the risk of insider threats. A Zero Trust policy is something all CNI organisations should consider due to the nature of the data being handled and the importance of critical infrastructure to everyday societal activities.
  6. Invest in Cyber Security Awareness and Training@ Investing in comprehensive cyber security awareness and training programs is fundamental for building a resilient defence against cyber-attacks. By providing employees with the knowledge and skills to recognise and respond to potential threats, organisations can significantly reduce the likelihood of successful breaches. Engaging, interactive training modules covering topics such as password security, phishing awareness, and secure browsing practices empower employees to become active participants in their organisation's security posture. Use posters, leaflets, GIFS, games, webinars, team activities and more to reach every employee via all possible communication channels.
  7. Ensure Incident Response Plan Available and Understood by All Employees: Having a well-defined incident response plan is critical for minimising the impact of cyber-attacks and restoring normal operations swiftly. Ensuring that all employees are familiar with the incident response procedures and their respective roles and responsibilities is essential for an effective response. Conducting regular drills helps to prepare employees to respond effectively in the event of a security incident.
  8. Regularly Update and Patch Both Software and Legacy Systems/Hardware: Keeping software and systems up to date with the latest patches and security updates is paramount for mitigating vulnerabilities and reducing the risk of exploitation. This includes not only modern software but also legacy systems and hardware that may be more susceptible to attacks. Implementing a robust patch management process ensures that critical vulnerabilities are addressed promptly, minimising the window of opportunity for attackers. Due to a lack of budget and executive buy-in, it can be difficult to get the funding and ambition to update legacy systems in CNI organisations – which has led to devastating cyber-attacks, such as the recent NHS breach due to outdated defences and systems.
  9. Remote/Mobile Access Risks, Manage Data Inventory, and Disposal Policies: With the rise of remote and hybrid work, organisations face increased risks. Implementing secure remote access solutions and enforcing strict access controls helps to mitigate the risks of unauthorised access and data breaches. Additionally, maintaining comprehensive data inventory and disposal policies ensures that sensitive information is managed and disposed of securely, reducing the risk of data leakage and exposure. For CNI organisations, this is key as sensitive and confidential information such as identity data, financial information and medical records must not fall into the hands of threat actors.

Working with TSC: How Cyber Security Awareness and Training Can Minimise Threats and Risks Against Your CNI Organisation

Partnering with a trusted cyber security awareness and training provider can significantly enhance your organisation's security posture and resilience against cyber threats. By leveraging tailored training programs and expert guidance, organisations can empower their employees with the knowledge and skills needed to protect critical assets and infrastructure effectively.

Working closely with TSC, and our 20+ years of experience partnering with CNI organisations, enables you and your employees to stay ahead of emerging threats. We always have our finger on the pulse and are effective at assessing security gaps in organisations and targeting said gaps with engaging and effective materials – through the channel that will prove most effective in education and cost.

In conclusion, safeguarding critical infrastructure organisations from cyber-attacks requires a multifaceted approach that prioritises employee awareness and training. By implementing the top tips outlined in this article, organisations can strengthen their defence mechanisms and minimise the risk of breaches and disruptions.

Written by
Nas Ali
Cyber security and awareness content creator focused on emerging threats and the next wave of cyber security risks like AI, deepfakes and tech 4.0 initiatives in order to build towards a more secure organisational culture.
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