Are you worried about the recent WannaCry and Petya ransomware attacks? Spare a thought for the inherent vulnerabilities present in the world’s high speed networks.

In May, cyber-security professionals warned that a repeat “WannaCry” ransomware hack could be launched. They were quickly proven correct. In June, the Petya ransomware hack hit the Ukraine and then damaged major businesses in other countries. The result was serious business disruption and financial costs to major industrial and pharmaceutical companies.

However, among all the security warnings that organisations improve their data security, there was a risk of overlooking high-speed data network vulnerabilities and underestimating other types of cyber-attack.

A typical reason for overlooking cyber-threats to high-speed data networks is the mistaken belief that they are inherently safe. The fact is that (fibre and copper) data networks are not inherently safe. Moreover, they are high value targets for cyber-criminals and successful breaches can have catastrophic consequences.

Often the “life-lines” of large organisations’ IT infrastructure; high-speed data networks play a business-critical role in the availability of core services and applications – Cloud, SaaS, data centres and Big Data. Cyber-criminals go where the money is, and high-speed networks offer rich rewards – identity theft, business disruption, IP and financial data.

In particular, critical national infrastructure and industrial organisations’ SCADA control systems’ Ethernet networks face potentially catastrophic damage from cyber-attacks that alter data or input “rogue” data.

In his article for The Independent, Andrew Griffin highlights that the purpose of the Petya ransomware hack was to cause disruption, not make money.

“Experts say that initial suggestions that the software was being used to make money may have been a distraction. The software might instead be part of a plan simply to cripple as many systems, companies and countries as possible, they said.

“The software itself suggested it was ransomware – when it was loaded up and had taken over users’ computers, it asked for money to get the files back. But actually paying that money wasn’t possible, and so it generated a tiny amount of cash.”

Senetas Opinion

Data security may be split into two key elements – prevention and protection. Prevention is typically a matter of “catch-up” with cyber-criminals. Protection is about data being safe in the event of a successful breach. The importance of protection becomes obvious when prevention technologies fail in the event of a cyber-attack.

In the case of high-speed data networks, including those used for critical infrastructure and industrial control systems (SCADA networks), cyber-threats involve both data theft and data interference (alteration and input). However, in the case of SCADA networks the potential for harm is far greater.

Encrypting high-speed network data – whatever type – enables two security benefits.  If stolen, the encrypted data is useless to unauthorised parties, whether it be financial, identity or IP. Secondly, a high-assurance network data encryption solution using authenticated encryption, prevents the input of “rogue” data and alterations to data.

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