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Understanding the Impact of Cyberattacks on Large Enterprises

December 28, 2023

Operational technology, which includes supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, industrial control systems (ICS), and programmable logic controllers (PLCs), is at the core of many large enterprises. The integration of these systems with IT exposes them to cyber threats that can disrupt production, compromise product quality, and even pose risks to human safety.

Large enterprises operate on a complex digital infrastructure. IT systems responsible for data management, communication, and business processes are interconnected to OT systems that focus on controlling physical processes like manufacturing, energy distribution, and critical infrastructure. Cybercriminals exploit this interconnectivity and target vulnerabilities in both IT and OT environments, allowing them to gain unauthorised access.

Cyberattacks on large enterprises can lead to severe consequences, including financial losses, reputational damage, and operational disruptions. In OT environments, these consequences can be particularly devastating as they extend beyond the virtual world, impacting the safety and functionality of critical industrial processes.

The Rising Threat to Operational Technology

While IT-OT convergence brings advantages, it also exposes organisations to new threats, especially in the form of zero day attacks. Beyond IT-OT convergence, critical infrastructure is often located in remote locations which makes them easily accessible and susceptible to threats. For example, smart metres in buildings, AGVs, CCTV cameras, and smart street lights to name a few. These types of OT infrastructure are all potential attack points that can lead hackers to move from these OT devices to the supervisory control systems and then to your corporate IT systems. Vulnerabilities in an OT system can leave critical infrastructure at risk of sabotage that can result in life or death situations.

Consequences of OT Cyberattacks on Large Enterprises:

Cyberattacks in OT environments can have dire consequences. It’s no longer just an “IT problem” and cannot be ignored. Here are some major outcomes of cyberattacks on large enterprises: 

  1. Operational Disruption: Cyberattacks can disrupt the normal functioning of industrial processes, leading to production downtime. This not only results in immediate financial losses but can also have cascading effects on the entire supply chain. The Ace Hardware cyberattack is an example of such an incident. 
  2. Safety Risks: OT systems control critical infrastructure such as power plants, water treatment facilities, and transportation systems. Compromised OT systems can pose serious safety risks to both employees and the public, leading to accidents and environmental damage. 
  3. Financial Implications: Beyond immediate operational losses, cyberattacks on large enterprises often result in long-term financial repercussions. Remediation efforts, legal consequences, and damage to the organisation's reputation contribute to a substantial financial burden. 
  4. Supply Chain Disruptions: Large enterprises are often key players in extensive supply chains. A cyberattack on their systems can have a domino effect, impacting suppliers, partners, and customers, disrupting the entire ecosystem. 

Safeguarding operational technology is paramount for large enterprises and implementing robust OT cybersecurity measures is essential to protect against cyber threats. MicroSec provides solutions to detect, protect, and prevent anomalies that may enter the OT network and corrupt devices, thereby preventing catastrophic outcomes that can be life-threatening. Is your organisation equipped to face zero day attacks that can impact your IT and OT systems?

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