Securing the critical infrastructure edge: How reliable and secure utility services bolster trust in the government

March 26 2024

A recent letter from the White House, jointly issued by leaders of the EPA and National Security Council, has been sent to all state governors, emphasizing the urgency of reinforcing the security of critical infrastructure. This action comes in response to two concurrent cyber threats that highlight the imperative of fortifying the nation's water and wastewater systems. The pervasive and complex nature of these cyber threats endangers the essential provision of clean and safe drinking water, presenting a considerable risk to communities impacted.

This is the reason specialists in cyber intelligence, including Ultra Intelligence & Communications, are advancing new capabilities to refresh critical infrastructure for 2024 and beyond.

"Security is not a luxury–it’s an expectation. While there’s been a tendency to focus on securing the network core, a mature utility operation needs to address extending that security to the edge,” said Gregory Rudy, vice president and general manager, Command, Control and Intelligence, for Ultra I&C. “Regular IT security practices often aren’t as effective at the edge due to constrained processors and lower speeds. The proliferation of sensors and operational technology means they need the same high level of protection too. It can be daunting to think about securing the ecosystem, but being always on guard doesn’t have to be onerous, costly or disruptive to the core network infrastructure or operation."

Continue reading to discover how to enhance security at the edge, understand the specific needs, and explore how Ultra I&C is revolutionizing this process.

From edge to core protection as the security foundation

As these devices at the edge of the network become smarter and more interconnected, they introduce additional layers of software, each with its own potential vulnerabilities. This complexity creates a fertile ground for exploitable defects and zero-day attacks, making the task of securing a complex critical infrastructure network ecosystem more challenging than ever.

Moreover, relying solely on standard protocols to manage a growing number of edge distributed devices can make it easier to infiltrate the network.

“It’s essential for utilities and other critical infrastructure operators to adopt best practices for operational technology protection at the edge of their networks,” said Rudy. “This means implementing robust security measures like network segmentation, encryption, firewalls, and inspection of packet messages into the edge networks to guard against any unknown defects in any of the many devices.  These strategies help thwart network compromise and enable the integrity of the digital ecosystem, from the edge to the core.”

Technology as the enabler to maintaining trust

Utilities demand more than just technological solutions to securing operational technology. They need a holistic cybersecurity approach that focuses on maintaining trust and reliability. These industries deserve a proactive security approach that can help ensure network security–from the edge to the core–ensuring continuous delivery of critical services to the communities they live in and serve.

For a utility provider, reliability is the foundation of trust. Trust that clean water will flow from a faucet and will be safe to drink; water for hygiene needs will be always available on demand. Communities trust the electric grid will be available for their medical necessities, personal cooking, business needs, communication and even entertainment needs.

Reliable service from utility providers is not just a matter of convenience; it is the cornerstone of public trust in government services. When utilities deliver consistent water, power, and gas without fail, they embody the efficiency, care, and responsibility of the governing bodies overseeing them. Reliability is the silent pact between the public and government that generates a sense of security and trust in government leaders.

Even minor interruptions in service delivery can affect the perception of reliability, which also influences the level of trust a community places in the utility provider and its leadership. A large breech can sever trust – in the community, the county, the state and beyond.

In a time where skepticism towards government institutions is common, reliable delivery of essential utility services becomes a tangible measure of government effectiveness, strengthening trust and reinforcing the community's faith in its leaders.

“Ultra Intelligence & Communications is in the business of secure, reliable, and impenetrable connectivity for tough missions around the world,” said Rudy. “Securing operational technology from spoofing, sniffing, code injection and other evolving cyber threats, in a way that effortlessly integrates into your existing network infrastructure, is our specialty.”

Ultra I&C’s cybersecurity solutions secure networks and bolster resilience capabilities. We can secure your network from the edge to the core. Contact us to learn more.

 

 

 

 

 

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