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The mining industry is faced with the continuous deployment of digital technologies for enhanced automation of processes, and assets management, which has tremendously exposed the big and small players in the mining industry to potential cyber-attacks.

Without a doubt, the benefits of embracing these technologies have brought increasing progress, a more efficient, agile and safer workplace. However, this change leaves the mining industry and other energy-related industries with a number of entry points for hackers, which can be devastating for the global supply chain and even pose an economic threat to key players.

Mike Rundus, EY Global mining and metals cybersecurity leader, once said that “there is a likelihood for mining and metals organisations productivity gains and aspirations to hit rock bottom if impacted by cyber-attacks”. A compromise on these interconnected devices and software can lead to a far-reaching impact on productivity and safety. What is more, by 2021, the global cost of cybersecurity espionage is projected to reach six trillion dollars, doubled the total encountered in 2015. Cyber threats are now rated among the five most serious risks facing the world today by the world economic forum. These attacks can amount to critical consequences, causing serious injuries and personal harms, supply chain disruptions, revenue and opportunity loss and essential damage of equipment.

Nowadays, attacks are highly targeted and coordinated, launched by all sorts of attacker groups and hacktivist, to hostile government and criminals. They have leveraged their experience on the significant role of mining commodities on regional and global supply chains across many economies. However, given the overwhelmingly dangerous conditions a mining site presents, including heavy machinery, volatile gases, and explosives, the impact of espionage on safety technologies and industrial control systems can be potentially devastating.

The Challenge

Robert S. Mueller, former director of the FBI, and now special counsel into the Russian interference of the USA election, popularly said that “there are two types of companies; those that have been hacked, and those that will be hacked”. Although this fashionable statement was made a while ago, in today’s reality, it should be, “there are two companies; those already hacked, and those who don’t know they have been hacked”. Despite an increase in budget for cybersecurity by companies, yet it is still not adequate to manage risks, especially on ICS.

EY Global information security survey revealed that about 53% of the organisations increased their budget for cybersecurity over 12 months and yet doesn’t meet their needs. 97% say their cybersecurity function does not fully achieve their organisational goals, and about 48% insist that it’s possible that their organisation will be able to detect a sophisticated breach. Also, too many mining organisations are taking an ad-hoc approach when it is already too late to manage risks and loopholes which unnecessarily exposes the system to more fragility rather than setting up a broad range of strategies that works ahead of the risks.

Staying ahead of the threats: What can be done?

Technology is moving at a fast pace, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Threats are also emerging alongside every new technology launched. As threats remain in contention, companies must step up their game to stay ahead of every evolving cyber threat. Several proactive and agile approaches can tremendously lower the risk of cyber-attacks.

End-User Training

Although it might appear shocking that many companies are lacking behind in training their staffs on the latest cybersecurity trends. EY also reported that only 35% of organisation board members have sufficient knowledge for effective oversight and proactive measure of how to handle cyber risks, leaving the remaining 65% un-training and inexperienced.

But with an inclusive, bottom-up approach that involves regular training of almost every staff in the organisation will go a long way in reducing the probability of a cyber attack. If employees are regularly trained, it will give them a sense of responsibility and alertness to secure any potential risks and vulnerabilities.

Organisations should sponsor key employees on acquiring specific cybersecurity knowledge and certifications that can help the organisation adequately manage cyber risks and vulnerabilities.

Endpoint Protection

In the context of network security, endpoint protection covers is an approach that protects the cooperate networks when accessed through remote devices like laptops, and smartphones. Risks through remote devices can greatly be attributed to the implementation of BYOD-bring your own devices approach by many companies. Most notably, the networks are more exposed when remote devices can access the organisation’s systems from outside the buildings. Cisco once predicted that about 60% of employees prefer to use smartphones for work purposes, this shows the growing dependency on this kind of methods, which poses a significant threat is the network perimeters are not substantially secured.

The best part of endpoint security is that it is designed to secure each endpoint on the network created by these devices.

Endpoint protection system consists of software, antimalware’s and system patching and firewall protection that help the network stay secure for as long as it can.

All these, woven together will go a long way in protecting organisations cyber activities from remote devices.

Perimeter Protection

Perimeter protection might seem to be the easiest to implement, but if not given proper attention, can be so useless. To ensure a base level of security, the IT of an organisation can install an antivirus and uses a complex series of static network zones to protect the infrastructure from sophisticated malware, watering hole attacks, sandworm, and cross-site attacks. Using the most basic intrusion prevention approach, organizations as well as proper firewall technologies, gateway antivirus, and zero threat protection will ensure a base level security.

Regular Threat Assessment

While you comprehend the need and benefit of surveying dangers to your association’s information and processing framework, you may some of the time need a couple of new plans to add to the blend to lead you to more prominent trust in your data security endeavors.

To successfully access a threat, organisations IT team must first determine the scope of the threat assessment, collect important data, identify potential vulnerabilities, analyze any threats uncovered, and perform your desired threat analysis.

Key test procedures like penetration testing, ethical hacking, and end-user testing can be performed. A penetration test can actually simulate a hacking scenario to assist you to locate a potential vulnerability.

Comprehensive Protection

A comprehensive approach will cover more grounds when combined with the other strategies. Solutions like antispam solutions, email security solutions, URL filtering will reduce Organizations IT risks and vulnerabilities to the barest minimum.

The robust approach adopted should always be able to identify risks, prioritise what matters the most for an organisation, govern and monitor performance, optimise investment and enable business performance. The most important thing is for organisations to adopt a cybersecurity framework for the consistent identifications of vital cyber control gaps, threats, and actions required to safe and secure cyberspace and above all the cybersecurity approach should be integrated into the digital transformation strategy of the organization.