13/03/2019 – News / Business / Cyber Security / Infrastructure / Infosecurity Europe

An attack on critical national infrastructure is imminent, say more than half in new poll

An attack on critical national infrastru

Convergence between physical and cyber environments is leaving businesses exposed, with a new poll conducted by Infosecurity Europe – – Europe’s number one information security event – finding that 59 per cent of the ICT security professionals surveyed believe that an attack on the UK’s critical national infrastructure is likely this year.


As more devices, systems and infrastructure are connected to the internet, the cyber and physical worlds are becoming increasingly linked, opening up new attack vectors. According to Ciaran Martin, head of the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a major category one (C1) attack on our critical infrastructure – one that disrupts essential services, or affects national security – is a matter of “when, not if”.



The responses to Infosecurity Europe’s poll also indicate that organisations in all sectors are not properly prepared to manage security effectively across both cyber and physical environments. Lack of collaboration and low levels of awareness of key legislation are the biggest problems. The challenges and complexities posed by the convergence of cyber and physical security will form a key part of the conference programme at this year’s Infosecurity Europe event, which returns to London Olympia from 4-6 June.


Collaboration is key


Over two thirds (68 per cent) of respondents say the security teams in charge of their physical and cyber infrastructures never collaborate. This disconnect leads to misaligned plans and conflicting priorities, while creating ‘silos’ that make it difficult for CISOs (Chief Information Security Officers) to gain full visibility of controls and risks across both IT and OT (Operational Technology) environments. 


“Defending critical assets is a team sport,” says Nigel Stanley, Chief Technology Officer and global head of OT cybersecurity at TÜV Rheinland. “IT, physical and OT teams need to get their act together and start to share and learn from each other.”


“Convergence of cyber and physical is inevitable”


Kevin Fielder, Just Eat’s Chief Information Security Officer, agrees. “The increasing convergence of cyber and physical environments is inevitable, but managing them in a cohesive way will strengthen enterprise security,” he advises, adding that it is the insider threat that requires the most urgent attention. “Those intent on accessing money, information or IP will often find it easier to do so from the inside – and we’re moving to a world where this can mean immediate impact to life. Hacking a building’s management systems, for example, could suppress a fire alarm or sprinkler system, or prevent people leaving.”


Lack of awareness about EU directive


Only 16 per cent of respondents to the Infosecurity Europe poll were aware of the EU’s NIS Directive – which is designed to improve the security and resilience of network and information systems – and its implications. The legislation, which was put in place in 2016, sets out security requirements that apply to all operators of essential services and digital service providers (DSPs). Failure to adhere to those requirements could leave security gaps that present attackers with ‘open doors’ through which they can access infrastructure and physical assets. UK organisations found to be non-compliant can be fined up to £17 million. 


“I can’t believe that any cyber security leader in a sector impacted by the NIS Directive would be unaware of its implications for their business,” says Nigel Stanley. “Lack of commitment to secure critical infrastructure is the worst sort of negligence. Forget what the regulators demand – organisations should take the initiative and secure assets based on a proportionate cyber security and business-led risk assessment.”


Kevin Fielder believes that if the industry doesn’t take the lead, further regulation will follow. “It really is in our best interest to self-regulate and protect the public. If the industry doesn't produce connected devices that are, by default, secure and manageable over the long term, it won't take many real incidents for government regulations to quickly materialise.”


“The safe ‘air gap’ between IT and OT no longer exists”


Victoria Windsor, Group Content Manager at Infosecurity Group, says: “The security challenges resulting from the convergence of physical and cyber environments will take centre stage at Infosecurity Europe 2019 – and for good reason. Operational systems in every industry are being connected to corporate and cloud environments, and the safe ‘air gap’ between IT and OT no longer exists. Cyber risk is now impacting the physical realm, and organisations must have effective management strategies in place. Technology such as unified threat management tools has a role to play, but it’s also vital that teams collaborate and communicate to understand blended cyber-physical attacks, and develop joint approaches, plans and policies.”


Attracting 12,100 responses, the Infosecurity Europe Twitter poll was conducted during the week commencing 4th February. Infosecurity Europe also asked its community of CISOs about the challenges presented by the increasing convergence of cyber and physical domains, and how security can be managed in a cohesive way.


Now in its 24th year, Infosecurity Europe takes place at Olympia, Hammersmith, London, from 4-6 June 2019. Each year, it attracts over 19,500 unique information security professionals attending from every segment of the industry, including more than 400 exhibitors showcasing their products and services, industry analysts, global press and policy experts, and over 200 industry speakers that are lined up to participate in the free-to-attend conference, seminar and workshop programme. For more details on the upcoming event, visit: www.infosecurityeurope.com

Latest issue – Vol 2/22
Lead stories
– Energy focus
– Gastech 2022
– H2 storage caverns for green steel 
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • Facebook Social Icon



Gastech Milan 2022


Oil and Gas Automation and Digitalization Congress 2022