Critical infrastructures are radically transforming on an unprecedented scale, boosted by a rapid adoption of ‘smart’ operational technologies. Cybersecurity is a growing part of that evolution. ABI Research forecasts security spending for the protection of critical infrastructures will hit $125 billion globally by 2023.
Three primary drivers are pushing better digital security in sectors such as utilities, transport, and healthcare: digital transformation and increased connectivity of operational technologies; democratisation of cyber attacks targeting critical infrastructure; and a maturing market for industrial and IoT security.
“Connected OT has enabled optimization and greater efficiency for decades-old legacy systems, cutting costs and vastly improving operations for operators,” said Michela Menting, Research Director at ABI Research.
But it has also introduced new vulnerabilities and opened new threat vectors to previously air-gapped technologies. The first specialized attacks against industrial control systems are over a decade old, and the attack tools and methods are accessible to even the most common cybercriminals.
Fortunately, the cybersecurity industry has been working in parallel to address that security gap between IT and OT. As a result, security solutions for industrial control systems and IoT have been fast maturing, rendering them more widely available and affordable.
“So, while critical infrastructure operators face an expanding threat landscape, they also have greater choice and support in terms of digital protection of their OT and IT systems. Security budgets have increased significantly, which is encouraging news for those sectors which have long lagged in digital security,” Menting explained.
However, these positive developments face-off against several obstacles plaguing critical infrastructures: a macro-focus slowdown by governments regarding national cybersecurity strategies, especially in the U.S., and the E.U., continued resistance to cybersecurity regulation and sectoral information sharing, and cyber threat fatigue leading to general apathy regarding cybersecurity by the private sector. Many stakeholders view cybersecurity as a check-box exercise for one-time spending rather than investing on a continuous basis.
“Consequently, while current security spending levels are significantly higher compared to just a few years ago, there is still significant room for further investment, both from an awareness and an implementation perspective,” she concluded.
These findings are from ABI Research’s Critical Infrastructure Security report. This report is part of the company’s Digital Security research service, which includes research, data, and Executive Foresights.