There is no doubt that cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure have become a key element of the conflict in Ukraine, with cyber- and kinetic strikes potentially occurring alongside each other.
The reality is that most critical infrastructure entities, in Ukraine and around the world, are highly exposed due to their reliance on legacy equipment with decades-long lifecycles, outdated security controls, and vulnerabilities that are difficult (if not impossible) to patch. And as these aging industrial networks become increasingly connected to IT networks, the cloud, and other connected devices, we see the emergence of new forms of cyber-risk.
We’ve known for years that Russian nation-state cyber-attackers are lurking in critical-infrastructure networks, and the recent (alleged) attack on DTEK Group shows how whole sectors of the economy could be damaged if they were to succeed. It also shows how privately owned critical infrastructure has become a prime target for nation-state cyber-attacks, which means that business leaders in the private sector have a crucial role to play in national security.
Given the economic pressure the US and other Western countries have exerted on Russia, it’s wise to be prepared for potential retaliation.
While the US federal government and many cyber-experts understand this, the huge gap we have in cyber-defenses of our systems—systems that are critical to our lives and livelihoods—leads me to believe the danger is not widely understood by business leaders.
Critical infrastructure is the underbelly of national security. The private sector and the government need to come together and take urgent, coordinated action to protect it.
Galina Antova is a co-founder of Claroty