We have created a vast grid of countless wired and wireless networks in order to connect everything to have easier access and use. With the impulse to make everything work faster and smarter, we have created a path for being vulnerable. This vast network of grids that we use on a daily basis is something we refer to as critical infrastructure – from electrical grids to financial services and telecommunication. Keeping this critical infrastructure safe and secure is of the highest importance. If security is breached, it could have serious consequences on physical safety of the people involved or even our society.
In order to explain the importance of cyber security, let us explore a couple of examples where cyber security had an impact on physical safety of people. Last year two hackers managed to hack into Jeep Cherokee and disable breaks, mess around with the steering and transmission. Luckily this was done by moral hackers trying to test the security of the vehicles, hence no accident occurred. Back in December 2015 adversaries managed to break in and defect the electrical grid in Ukraine causing a power outage that affected quarter of a million of people.
This was the first successful attack where cyber security seriously influenced the supply safety of the electrical grid. It is likely we will see similar approaches in the future where cyber activities will have serious consequences on critical physical infrastructures These security breaches are something that could occur more easily if organizations like the European Network for Cyber Security (ENCS) would not exist. ENCS, based in The Hague, the Netherlands, is actively working together with its members and partners, to ensure that electric grids, smart metering, electric cars are secure in their use.
One thing is certain – the cyber industry will continue rapidly advancing bringing together the need for strengthening of security protocols The technological advancements in the last couple of decades brought many positive improvements that enhanced the quality of life and easiness we do things. Nowadays, it is possible to control the temperature at home with a click on your smartphone, or transfer money to a family member who is on the other side of the world.
The organization came to existence in 2012 with the mission to gather top researchers and test specialists who would work together on applied research, help critical infrastructure owners in defining technical security requirements, conduct vulnerability research on component and end-to-end systems, as well as provide education and training in the field of cyber security of critical infrastructures. At the moment the organization is largely focusing on security of energy grids, electrical vehicles and smart metering across Europe, but is enthusiastic to work in any other field related to critical infrastructure cyber security.
In its fourth year of existence, the ENCS managed to establish a significant network of companies within the national distribution systems coming from the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal and Austria, and other utility companies across Europe. Partnering with the governmental and academic sector, ENCS is continuously working on research and development of new concepts to ensure constant progress in the cyber security sector.
Lack of cyber security knowledge is one common understanding and concern in the industry and amongst experts and the need for continuous training of staff is becoming more urgent every day. ENCS developed a platform for its members and partners to share and receive the latest information and trends related to cyber security to have a better chance to prepare and defend their critical infrastructure against cyber-attacks and improve overall cyber security. For example, ENCS is continuously developing industry best practices that are applied by its members, such as security requirements for smart metering that can be used when validating existing solutions. “The companies we work with have recognized that competition in the area of cyber security will not cater any real security advancement. Each utility company is doing everything possible to ensure the critical infrastructure is safe and secure. If we want to avoid more serious situations where cyber security is influencing physical safety, we have to share knowledge and learn from each other. We are actively promoting this amongst our members and partners and ENCS is continuously looking for new members to strengthen the network even further.” noted ENCS Managing Director Mr Anjos Nijk.
ENCS recognized the need for interactive way of knowledge sharing and has developed a training aiming to strengthen industrial control systems and smart grid cyber security. Through practical simulations participants learn about protection against hacking within their companies. The course is designed to be appealing to everyone in the cyber security sector dealing with critical infrastructure. It combines theory and practice and it shows how hackers think and what tools they use in order to prepare better defense. This training is only one example of proactive and hands on approach the ENCS is using in order to contribute to the cyber security sector.
One thing is certain – the cyber industry will continue rapidly advancing bringing together the need for strengthening of security protocols. At this moment it is not possible to grasp the concept of what might be coming our way. Regardless of the way the industry goes, we have to be sure to minimize the effect of potential malicious attacks in the cyber space and ensure further advancement in this field. Collaboration alone is not enough. We need to tackle the issue proactively and ensure to be at least one step ahead in protecting what we have been building for decades in the cyber world. ENCS will continue to work diligently on research and advancements in the field of cyber security.