SA industrial facilities at risk of cyber attacks

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Industrial facilities, mining and utilities are increasingly at risk of cyber war and cyber crime attacks, warns GECI

With international analysts warning of a growing risk of cyber war, sabotage and espionage impacting industrial and mining facilities, South African stakeholders must step up their efforts to mitigate risk. This is according to GECI, an international tactical cyber security specialist now launching its portfolio of cyber security solutions in South Africa. After Europe, GECI has chosen to expand its platform of innovative solutions in Africa, starting with South Africa where the need is clearly identified.

Cyber attacks have escalated beyond theft of data and ransomware attacks, to attacks specifically designed to shut down critical infrastructure, manipulate markets and even cripple entire countries, says South African GECI representative Mike Bergen.

Citing attacks on major enterprises, power plants and nuclear facilities, Bergen says the increasing connectedness of industrial plants is putting them at greater risk of attack.

However, Thuli Mgwebile, business development agent at GECI South Africa and MD of local GECI partner Sinac Group, says early discussions with local infrastructure stakeholders indicate that their focus on cyber security is inadequate. “For example, we see local industrial players saying their own risk assessment exercises have found a huge amount of data leakage taking place,” she says.

This, coupled with inadequate access controls at plants, presents significant vulnerabilities which could be misused to devastating effect. In many industrial environments, IT and operations are still run in siloes, Bergen says, with cyber security a focus in the enterprise’s administration and data centres and little focus on cyber security in plant operations. “In many companies, Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) are two domains – engineers in the plants manage their own systems and equipment, and they consider themselves separate from IT. Not all OT specialists are as aware as IT professionals are of the importance of cyber security.”

“Cyber war and cyber crime could happen to anyone  – it’s a pandemic,” he says.

“Industrial facilities have done a lot to protect themselves from catastrophes, but not enough to protect themselves from cyber attacks,” says Mgwebile.  She sees cyber attack as a key risk area for resilient industrial systems and will therefore contribute to promote GECI solutions.

GECI has provided global solutions to manufacturers and consumers in the fields of aerospace, transportation, energy, petrochemicals, infrastructure, IT & Telecommunications for over 40 years. The Group has evolved to focus on digital technologies and has branched into industrial IT/OT cyber security on the back of several acquisitions and partnerships, including one with Israeli cyber security start-up ODI-X LTD, which specialises in disarmament and reconstruction technologies (CDR-content disarmament and rebuilding). GECI’s portfolio also includes BitDAm, an innovative cybersecurity company that delivers the highest detection rates of advanced attacks within the communication stream, CyberX industrial control system (ICS) deployed across over 1,200 production networks worldwide, and TripleCyber remote monitoring and analysis services.

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