The threat and resulting risk from cyberspace to our physical assets was thrown into sharp relief before Christmas when a cyber attack penetrated the network of a German steel mill, eventually affecting the operating systems of the blast furnaces, ensuring that they could not be properly shut down. The damage was heavy and the potential for loss of life was very high, as staff found they were unable to shut down the furnaces for some considerable time. How did this happen and could it really happen anywhere?

The attack on the steel mill was largely overshadowed in the media by the Sony breach – a breach that we are still hearing about. Sony’s ongoing security woes are always keenly observed by the media, however it is a shame more attention has not been paid to this important steel mill cyber attack. The steel mill attack highlights the need to strengthen security procedures around buildings and other physical systems to protect them from cyberspace attacks, those intent on doing damage or even those causing incidental or accidental damage.

One of the key things about cyberspace is that it has its own geography. There is the ‘mainstream’ net and the ‘Deepnet’ or as it has become known more recently, Darknet. That is it. There is no further meaningful geography; accordingly, attacks can happen anywhere and the attacker may be thousands of miles away. The impact is the same and the potential for damage and chaos, likewise.

So who is responsible for assessing the threat and including it in risk assessments? If we don’t truly grasp the risk, how can we mitigate it?

Apr-Jun 2015 Issue

Advent IM Ltd