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Combating Cyber-Attacks Through Cyber Intelligence & Security: Part One

Hello and welcome to Part One of my new blog series discussing cyber intelligence and security around the critical infrastructure sectors in the U.S. Cyber-attacks are becoming increasingly prevalent and threatening to utilities, refineries, military defense systems, water treatment plants and other sectors of our critical infrastructure. Part One of this series details the dangers of cyber-attacks by state and non-state actors and how cyber intelligence can help organizations combat future cyber-attacks. Part Two will detail the role of data in cyber security and ways cyber intelligence can be gathered to further prevent attacks.

The New State of Cyber-Attacks

As technology advances so will the amount of cyber-attacks. Many companies play a vital role in their nation’s critical infrastructure and these companies are adopting digital systems to replace older, analog controls. This digitization of technology is helping operators obtain remote visibility and control over operations, including processes in refineries, the generation and transmission of power in the electrical grid, and the temperatures in nuclear cooling towers. In doing so, industrial facilities have become more efficient and productive.

However, the same digital hyper-connectivity that facility managers use to collect data and control machines and processes, also can serve as entry points for cyber attackers to get into system networks and steal or alter classified information, disrupt processes and cause damage to equipment. Many early control system breaches were random or accidental infections, but we’ve now entered a stage where kinetic attacks are becoming more prevalent, with industrial control systems becoming the object of targeted attacks.

Threats to a company’s information systems and assets could come from anywhere. State and non-state actors from around the globe are almost certainly targeting and possibly even penetrating the networks of energy providers and other critical infrastructures in the U.S. Effectively cyber criminals have loose alignment (affiliation) with state actors and now these criminals are beginning to use different methodologies, creating a huge challenge. Traditionally, we see malicious actions like zero-day attacks, Denial of Service attacks, (DoS) i.e. vulnerability attacks, bandwidth or connection flooding, stopping or delaying workflows and SQL Injections that help hackers exploit or steal data from organizations.

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Challenges and Progress at the White House Summit on Cybersecurity

White House Cybersecurity JPEG

On February 13, I attended the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection at Stanford University. President Obama, along with senior leaders spanning federal government, industry and technology sectors, law enforcement, consumer privacy advocates, and others convened to collaborate and build partnerships within the public and private sectors to further improve cybersecurity practices.

The keynote, panels and workgroup sessions covered a range of preeminent topics but the resounding theme from each was simple – everyone is online, therefore everyone is vulnerable. A comprehensive and collaborative effort from private and public sectors will be necessary to address these challenges. Sharing information in a safe, secure, confidential and reliable way will be a major factor in this coordinated approach.

Throughout the Summit, the key challenges were consistent –

  • The need for legislation to protect information sharing
  • Eliminate cross-industry barriers and establish partnerships
  • Liabilities created by the convergence of wireless & digital technology
  • Need to raise the security baseline for digital products and controls
  • Create stewardship for planning and management

This is a complex and changing environment, but it’s moving in the right direction. Several public-private partnerships exist today that are starting to address these challenges including the Electric Sub-sector Coordinating Council, Cyber Threat Alliance, Idaho National Laboratory and the Cyber Threat Intelligence Centre. Additionally, President Obama officially signed the Executive Order on Promoting Private Sector Cybersecurity Information Sharing while at the Summit and launched the BuySecure Initiative in November to help mitigate these risks.

Specifically within the utilities industry, there has been a consistent focus on reliability and safety, but modernizing the electric grid is an ongoing process. Cisco Secure Ops and Collaborative Operations are just a couple of the solutions addressing this industry evolution; click here to learn more. In my next blog, I’ll address some of these Cybersecurity exposures and how to leverage technology to reduce these risks.

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Welcome René Pluis to the Cisco Energy Blog

Please join me in welcoming René Pluis to the Cisco Energy Blog. René is a member of my global energy team and has vast experience of Cisco architectures and technologies and how they can be applied to our customer’s business and technical challenges to create positive business outcomes.

Rene Pluis

Rene Pluis

René has been working in the industrial network domain for several years now.  His focus has been on enabling business imperatives through the deployment of communication networks, connectivity and collaboration.

His main focus is the Oil & Gas Industry, both onshore as well as offshore. Deployment of wireless technologies to connect sensors (IoT – Internet of Things) and enabling mobile wireless clients (track & trace) in hazardous areas and pipeline operations are just two of his focus areas in this industrial network domain. He is also very familiar with other areas of the energy industry such as utilities and energy management.

He combines both a technology and a business view on the solutions at hand. He has spoken at several events and conferences and is considered a consultative subject matter expert by many industry and customer groups:

Please welcome René!

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Welcome to the NEW Energy Blog from Cisco

I have great pleasure in introducing you to the new Cisco Energy Industry Blog.

Did you know that the Energy Industry is one of Cisco’s fastest growing sectors served with huge opportunities for Cisco partners and customers? You probably know that Cisco has historically served the Enterprise IT and Network buying centers of most energy companies around the globe, but did you know that Cisco has a growing presence in the Operational Technologies areas of these companies solving real business, technical and process challenges? Yes, the Internet of Everything is here!

Nico Smit Welcomes you to the new Energy Blog and the re-invigorated YouTube and Facebook social media for Cisco Energy

That’s because over the past decade we’ve pushed the relevance of Cisco well beyond the concerns of the networking engineer and are now leading the dialogue, solutions and innovations for energy firms’ lines of business—crossing the entire value chain and ecosystems that compose an energy enterprise organization. With a complement of collaboration, virtualization and video service architectures that we provide over the network, Cisco has proven to be a trusted partner for a variety of firms in the energy sector, transforming their businesses and creating long-term competitive advantage through new models for customer growth, product and business innovation, agility and operational excellence.

Oil and Gas - huge future opportunity

Future opportunity for Oil and Gas. What’s your view?

So what can you expect from this blog? Who are the people contributing, and what are their backgrounds? What are Cisco’s views and opinions about the Energy Industry? Why would you be interested?

We want you to be part of the dialogue. Cisco has gained increased influence with energy companies not only in terms of technical guidance, but also in terms of business advice and thought leadership. The goal of this blog is to share and broaden that perspective. Read the blogs, watch the videos and give us your comments and opinions. We welcome your viewpoint and constructive feedback. Check out our other social media platforms: Cisco Energy YouTube Channel, Cisco Manufacturing and Energy Facebook, and the Cisco Energy Twitter feed. Read More »

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Making Lives Easier, One Drop at a Time

Jason Kohn

By Jason Kohn, Contributing Columnist

We often think of technology in terms of flashy gadgets and slick new applications. But the technology with the biggest impact is often more prosaic. It’s about using straightforward tools to solve basic problems that make people’s lives better.

One of the best examples I’ve seen of this recently is NextDrop, out of Hubli in the state of Karnataka, India. NextDrop is attacking a problem that affects millions of people in India and in much of the developing world: unpredictable and unreliable water supply.

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