Our Shared Role in Protecting National Infrastructure from Cyber Threats

After covering cybersecurity from both a personal and business perspective, this final post for National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) expands to security in our nation’s critical infrastructure theme – “Protecting Critical Infrastructure from Cyber Threats”.

The link between infrastructure and cybersecurity

Critical infrastructure includes the many essential systems that sustain our economy and way of life, such as electricity, railways, roadway traffic control, communication, sewage and water systems, and financial institutions. All of these essential systems have become more reliant on networked technology over the last several years, making them a target to cyber threats.

Building cyber resilience will help keep our critical infrastructure safe

Our critical infrastructure underpins our way of life, and securing these systems and technologies is essential for the nation.  Here are some suggestions to help keep the systems we depend on more secure.

  1. Start by protecting your company. The private sector owns the vast majority of the nation’s critical infrastructure and resources.* As such, one of the first steps in protecting critical infrastructure is to protect your organization’s infrastructure. Start by developing a comprehensive and coordinated business continuity plan at your company. Consider aspects such as your electricity supply, communications links, water supply and waste disposal, as well as your physical supply, storage and distribution for fuel, raw materials and products.nce you have business continuity plan in place, you should continually monitor, and improve analysis and warning capabilities for both cyber and physical threats.
  2. Secure your supply chain. Make sure hardware and key infrastructure components are secured and protected. While software vulnerabilities can cause substantial loss, they can also be fixed relatively easily when identified by updating the latest patches, firmware, or product upgrades. Hardware updates for improved security can be a more cumbersome process and often the only answer is to replace each piece of offending hardware. It’s also recommended that you implement supply chain protection measures around your products and services to help protect against both cyber and physical attacks that could comprise the integrity of the hardware and software components that may become part of the critical infrastructure. Partnering with the right product manufacturers and integrators, those with a communicated focus on cyber security, will enable critical control systems to continue to operate.
  3. Build public-private partnerships. By working together, private enterprises and public organizations can effectively confront security problems that jeopardize infrastructure. Information exchanges and cooperation can allow both sides to address awareness, vulnerability remediation, and recovery operations.

As National Cyber Security Awareness Month concludes, we encourage you to look back at the tips and strategies we’ve covered over the past month. Share them with colleagues and friends, and start implementing them.

We also encourage you to stay up-to-date by registering on the Cyber Protection Program website for product advisories and resources on topics related to your cybersecurity.

*The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Critical Infrastructure Sector Partnerships https://www.dhs.gov/critical-infrastructure-sector-partnerships July 11, 2017.

Become a Pro About Cybersecurity

If you’ve been following our recent posts that tie in with National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM), you might be thinking “there’s a lot to know about cybersecurity!”

Truth be told, there is. And it’s relevant to every type of business and organization, in every sector. It’s not surprising that there is strong demand for cybersecurity professionals. In fact, according to a study by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education, ‘the demand for cybersecurity workers will outpace supply, by 2022 North America will have 265K more cybersecurity jobs than skilled workers, a 20% increase over the forecast made in 2015.’*

So, in line with the week 4 theme of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, if you know a student or a business professional looking for a career change, let them know – The Internet wants YOU: Consider a career in cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity knowledge gives you an edge

To increase your knowledge, there are a few smart steps you can take towards making yourself more cybersecurity savvy.

  • Take a course. Just because you don’t have experience as a computer systems analyst or network administrator doesn’t mean you can’t learn more, or contribute to your company’s cybersecurity. There are a wide variety of cybersecurity specific courses available across multiple formats and platforms (such as classroom, computer-based, and training videos). You can take them simply to educate yourself or to make a career leap, say from a database administrator to a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).
  • Get certified. As you strengthen your cybersecurity knowledge, you may want to move towards certification. CompTIA Security+ certification and (ISC)² System Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) are two entry-level certifications to consider. For CompTIA Security+ two years of IT administration with a security focus is recommended, not required. If you are moving towards a career change a (ISC)² SSCP certification requires a minimum of one year full-time work in one or more of the seven fields covered.
  • Get Connected. Reach out and connect with people already working in the cybersecurity field to gain more exposure and knowledge. Consider joining one of the professional organizations focused on cybersecurity, such as ISACA or (ISC)².  Attending local and national cyber security conventions such as OWASP will also help you gain insight.  You can also look for online groups focused on cybersecurity, or LinkedIn groups including the Cyber Security Forum Initiative and Information Security Careers Network. We also recommend connecting with cybersecurity experts in your city to learn more about the issues your peers are dealing with.

A little education goes a long way. All of the above are great ways to increase your knowledge while making your company, yourself and your customers more cyber safe.

In next week’s blog, we will focus on things you can do to protect critical infrastructure from cyber threats. If you missed our previous National Cyber Security Awareness Month blogs, click the links below:

>> Week – The basics of staying safe online

>> Week 2 – Cybersecurity in your workplace

>> Week 3 – Smart use of smart devices

Have you registered yet with the Cyber Protection Program for security products? Register to receive security advisories and resources on topics related to your cybersecurity.

* Center for Cyber Safety and Education – 2017 Global Information Workforce Study Benchmarking Workforce Capacity and Response to Cyber Risk – A Frost & Sullivan Executive Briefing.

** CISSP, ISACA, (ISC)², SSCP are trademarked and owned by (ISC)² all rights reserved.

*** OWASP is trademarked and owned by the OWASP Foundation all rights reserved.

Facing a Smart Reality

In keeping with this week’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) theme – “Today’s Predictions for Tomorrow’s Internet” – Johnson Controls, through its Cyber Protection Program for security products, focuses on how to get cyber-smart about the devices we use.

Without a doubt, the Internet of Things (IoT) brings many benefits and allows us to be more productive. These devices form the framework of the smart cities and smart homes that are increasingly becoming part of everyday lives. However, as business and security professionals, we need to be aware that those benefits can only be safely realized if our Internet-connected devices are on a path to increase security.

Smart use of smart devices

Here are some tips to keep your data, identity, and devices safe in a “smart”, connected world.

While these tips are geared towards smarter use of smart devices, they may also apply to your security systems.

  • Know the devices that are on your network. Most importantly, know their functions and connection to other devices. You can’t secure what you don’t know about, and interconnections are common. Use automated tools to inventory your network regularly and train employees on your BYOD (bring your own device) policies.
  • Make sure you understand what risk these devices can present. It is important to know the type of information being stored and transmitted. As the device owner, you are ultimately responsible for the data on that device. Saying you didn’t know the device contained or transmitted private or sensitive information will not prevent your company from the potential consequences of violating a regulation or law regulating the storage, use and transmission of personal and other information.
  • Segment and segregate your IoT devices onto their own separate network. Keeping IoT devices separate from other business or critical operational networks can help prevent them from becoming an entry point for attackers. If an IoT device must be connected to a business network, make sure that the device only has access to the systems it needs to properly function.
  • Secure your Wi-Fi network. Open Wi-Fi networks are an easy entry point for cybercriminals into a network. Always change the default password for your Wi-Fi (and other devices). Also, keep in mind that older versions of wireless security protocols such as WEP and WPA are insecure and can be easily hacked. Device owners should stay aware of and migrate to the strongest wireless protocols available.

Depending on your role and technical expertise, you may not be able to do all of the above yourself. Most likely, you will need to work with your company’s IT teams and trusted integrator who is committed to cybersecurity, but it’s always worth being aware and taking control where you can.

That being said, to find out how you can become a pro at cybersecurity, stay tuned for next week’s post.

If you missed our previous National Cyber Security Awareness Month blogs, read them here:

>> Week 1 – The basics of staying safe online

>> Week 2 – Cybersecurity in your workplace

We also encourage you to visit the Cyber Protection Program website for security advisories and resources on topics related to your cybersecurity.


Cyber Security in the Workplace

As National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) moves into week two, Johnson Controls, through the Cyber Protection Program for security products, turns from last week’s post on staying safe online to this week’s theme, focusing on cybersecurity in the workplace.

Wherever you are in the hierarchy, and no matter the size of your organization, you have an important role to play in keeping your business cyber-safe.

How can you protect yourself and your workplace, and strengthen your cyber resilience? It’s a matter of simple vigilance, and good cyber hygiene. Start with these four principles:

  • Keep your software and operating systems up-to-date. System and software version updates are there for a reason. Beyond giving you access to additional functionality, keeping your operating system and software applications up-to-date is an effective way to fix known vulnerabilities so hackers can’t take advantage of them. If you can’t always keep the software up-to-date because of dependencies, consider putting in other controls to mitigate the vulnerabilities that were discovered and fixed in the updated versions.
  • Backup everything, and do a test restore. Yes, you’ve heard this a hundred times. But it is that important! There are so many ways data can be lost, including malware, viruses, theft, computer malfunctions and accidental deletion. That’s why you should always make electronic and physical copies of all your important work and system data, and make sure there is a copy stored in a safe place. For critical business data, backups should be stored at a separate location. If you store your backup data online, make sure it is not normally accessible from your current network, so that ransomware or other malware can’t get to it.
  • Disable any protocols for remote connectivity, unless constantly required for day-to-day operations. This includes protocols such as Telnet, SSH, FTP, SFTP, RDP/XRDP, ONVIF, UPnP, and VNC. Even if the protocols are used for occasional remote support or troubleshooting, it’s better to keep them disabled and only activate them when needed.
  • Periodically review accounts and privileges, and update them accordingly. Each system user’s privileges or roles should be defined as what they need to get their job done, no more. It’s not uncommon for there to be “privilege creep” for accounts, where additional privileges are granted for a specific one-time task and then never removed. Similarly, accounts for users who no longer need access should be dealt with according to your company’s policy.

In a nutshell: Cybersecurity at work is a shared responsibility to help reduce susceptibility to threats and attacks.

In next week’s post we will move on to smart use of smart devices. Until then, make sure to visit the Cyber Protection Program for security products website for product advisories and resources on matters related to your cybersecurity.

Seven Simple Steps to Staying Safe Online

Throughout the month of October, Johnson Controls, through the Cyber Protection Program for security products, is supporting the National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) mission to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity, and individual cyber posture. NCSAM is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, together with the National Cyber Security Alliance and other public and private partners.

Each week the NCSAM will highlight a different theme – beginning with Simple Steps to Online Safety. In line with this, the following are some practical tips for simple things everyone can do protect themselves online.

While some of this is likely familiar to you, it’s always worth refreshing.

Practice good password hygiene

All of your online accounts – including your work email, online shopping, and social media accounts – contain more personal data than you may think. It’s worth a small amount of effort to help keep them secure.

  • Make sure your passwords are long and strong. Length is more important than complexity, long passphrases are better than short and complicated passwords. Even better, use a password manager to generate a strong password and store them securely.
  • Use a unique password for each account; and change a password if you even think it’s been compromised.
  • Use long and complex answers to forgot password questions and memorize them or store them in a password manager.
  • Never share your username or password. Anyone who needs access to the system should have their own account details.

Lock your devices

  • Always keep your mobile device and workstation locked. Even better, have an automatic lock go into effect after a couple of minutes of inactivity. You never know who is around the corner, waiting to steal, destroy or upload malware.

Surf and click cautiously

Both at home and in the office, you need to be wary of emails, websites and associated links that may contain malicious content that can compromise your system.

  • Only open emails or attachments from people you know. Hackers will also use know contacts for phishing, so when in doubt call the person to confirm the email is from them.
  • When in doubt, throw it out, even if you know the source. If it’s something you think may be legitimate, then go to the website directly rather than clicking on the link. Also keep in mind that if you receive an email from a familiar source asking for personal details, especially details they should already have, it may be a phishing ploy.

Bottom line, stay aware to stay cyber-safe

As security professionals, we all share a joint responsibility to protect devices, systems and networks, and help others do the same.

We recommend sharing these tips with your employees and colleagues, your customers – and your friends and family too.

Next week we’ll continue our National Cyber Security Awareness Month initiative, with a post focusing on cybersecurity in the workplace.

In the meantime, make sure to visit the Cyber Protection Program for security products website for product advisories and resources on matters related to your cybersecurity.