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  • The rising threat of cyber-crime

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Nearly nine out of ten Australian households have access to the internet and almost every business in Australia relies on it every day. We spend more time online than ever before and we flip between multiple devices to get our information fix. But as our dependence on technology grows, we leave ourselves, our workplaces and our businesses increasingly vulnerable to the threat of cyber-crime.

Cyber-attacks reported to the Australian Department for Cyber Crime grew four-fold in the last three years. Energy companies topped the list of business sectors affected.

With financial gain the primary motivator, it comes as no surprise that cyber-crime is big business – worth $400 billion worldwide. The impact on the victims of these crimes can be severe. Taking into account disruption, lost revenue, and replacement technologies, the financial cost of cyber-crime to Australian business tops $1 billion.

However, while the focus of cyber security is often on the protection of data (the IT level), the biggest threat for businesses is to operational technology (OT), or the ‘nuts and bolts’ machinery that keeps Australia’s biggest industrial networks running smoothly. Think mining, manufacturing, electricity, water organisations or networks. At its most basic, OT is the equipment that monitors and alters physical devices such as pumps or switches.

Safety, reliability and availability are the imperatives of critical infrastructure environments and operational technology (OT) security has to be fool-proof and fail-proof because critical applications and services need to run round-the-clock.

The risk of cyberattack on our critical industries has become even more serious as organisations increasingly use smart technology (for example, sensors) to connect industrial devices. Industrial equipment that previously worked in isolation becomes part of a network that is only as strong as its weakest point. Consider the impact of a water pipe malfunction that cuts off water to an isolated town or a small factory mishap that shuts down a production line for hours.

It isn’t just big industrial operations that are at risk of having their OT threatened either. Everyday business offices could be shut down by hackers simply targeting susceptible building management systems. They have the power to cut ventilation, disable heating/cooling systems or simply set off alarms.

With over two billion connected users today and an expected 507.5ZB of information produced by Internet of Things (IoT) devices by 2019, we’ve never been more linked by technology, and we’ve never been more at risk.

While it is impossible to completely eliminate the threat of cyber-crime, there is much that can be done to reduce the risk of a successful attack.

While the wellbeing of one small piece of machinery might seem inconsequential, it is necessary for the reliable operation of the many industries we rely on for jobs and our daily needs.

Schneider Electric is working to help its customers adopt a multi-layered defence in depth approach to cyber security to tackle it head on.

Through a holistic, step-by-step plan to mitigate risk, our approach includes offering improved security features on current and upcoming solutions for all buildings, the use of monitoring software to manage and protect assets and a comprehensive suite of services to support customers.

With the expertise as a global solutions providers, we can help organisations plan a proactive, holistic and well tested approach to OT security.

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