Zero Trust Segmentation

9 Reasons Why Energy Operators Should Implement Illumio Zero Trust Segmentation

Ransomware and other breaches can be devastating to energy systems - an outage can impact millions of people, their safety, and their livelihoods.

Bad actors are increasingly targeting the energy sector because of their vulnerability. The large number of recent cyberattacks on energy infrastructure is proof enough.

Energy operators must be prepared.

Illumio Zero Trust Segmentation (ZTS) stops inevitable breaches from spreading across the hybrid attack surface. And for industries at a heightened risk for cyber disasters like the energy sector, this is essential.

Here are the 9 ways Illumio ZTS can help protect your energy operations from the threat of ransomware and breaches:

1. Maintain services while under attack

A loss of power is not just an issue for the operator but also for society. The hunger for energy underpins almost every activity, so a break in supply can have unpredictable effects.

Criminal gangs and nation states understand this and will target the energy supply to either cause disruption or extort a fee.

The focus for operators should be building a cybersecurity resilience plan to maintain services during an attack. Illumio ZTS contains an attack to prevent it from spreading from the original point of attack to high-value and critical assets.

2. Ransomware protection

Ransomware causes the highest-profile attacks we see today. It can be used in multiple ways, and how it manifests can be unpredictable.

The methods ransomware uses to propagate through an organization are well-known. The most popular protocol for ransomware propagation is remote desktop protocol (RDP). RDP allows anyone with network administrator credentials to gain remote access to Windows machines.

This protocol is oftentimes left on even though it's not required by many applications. By not allowing RDP, or other popular ransomware protocols, where it is not needed, ransomware can be contained in the event of an attack.

Illumio can simply allow the protocols used by systems within the operator's network and block protocols like RDP that are not required.

3. Asset mapping

Fundamental to understanding the risks within a system is understanding what equipment is on the network and which other devices they are connected to.

A key requirement in many cybersecurity frameworks and industry regulations is the ability to map the interdependencies of IT and OT systems within the operator's network. By doing this, it becomes possible to identify areas of high risk where systems are open to access from multiple systems that are not authorized.

Illumio collects data from a variety of sources to build a map that shows details on assets across both the IT and OT environments and how they are communicating between them. This makes it simpler to make the correct decisions about what traffic to allow.

4. Vulnerability mitigation

It is often difficult to manage the complex process of patching systems. There are so many patches that need to be applied on a daily basis to a huge variety of different systems.

Most organizations have developed a well-defined process that initially identifies, then tests, and finally applies patches. However, this cannot be done instantly - there will be a lag between the release of a patch and its installation. And even when vulnerabilities are discovered, it may take a while before a patch is generated at all.

Another challenge is that some devices are no longer supported and so cannot be patched. The risk to unpatched devices can be mitigated by using Illumio ZTS to restrict the exposure of individual systems. By temporarily applying more stringent restrictions on unpatched systems, the vulnerability can be protected until patched.

5. Asset protection

The NIST Zero Trust guide advises security teams to not assume that all their organizations' devices are connected to the network. This is especially true for the increased number of devices and systems connected wirelessly.

Traditional network-based approaches to security don't provide the flexibility and agility to adapt to this new hybrid environment.

ZTS moves security enforcement to the asset and provides the same level of security regardless of location or platform.

Learn more about how Illumio ZTS can help protect IT/OT convergence here.

6. Comply with local regulations

Energy companies around the world are regulated by different regional and national organizations.

Most cybersecurity directives focus on common areas:

  • Maintaining services while under attack
  • Mapping the communication between OT and IT systems
  • Preventing the spread of an attack from one area to another
  • Mitigating any vulnerabilities in the network.

Illumio ZTS provides a simple solution to all of these issues without the need for complex bespoke systems.

Read how Illumio ZTS can address TSA Security Directive Pipeline 2021-02C Requirements.

7. Automated incident response

Bad actors target energy operators because of the large impact ransomware attacks can have.

The Colonial Pipeline attack showed just how difficult it can be for endpoint protection systems to detect and respond to a live attack.

Because of this, it is important to define a plan in event of a ransomware attack. The fastest and most effective response is to contain the attack by stopping the method of communication that the ransomware is using.

Illumio ZTS can instantly stop the propagation of ransomware by locking down the ports that the attack will use.

8. Simple deployment of security policies

Cybersecurity in the energy environment is often built into many processes and systems. The diversity of the environment can lead to an overly complex infrastructure. This can make the effort of delivering a secure service very difficult - organizations often don't have the staff or budget to meet this need.

Illumio ZTS makes it easier to deploy security policies. By providing a simple map showing communication between workloads and devices, security teams can use Illumio to design and provision the appropriate rules.

9. Scalability

An energy operator's infrastructure can compromise a few big things plus a huge number of small things. Any security solution must be able to scale to match both requirements.

Focusing on protecting the asset as opposed to the network allows Illumio ZTS to scale linearly from two devices to hundreds of thousands. Regardless of whether that asset is a host in a data center, a laptop, or a super grid transformer, the level of protection should be consistent.

Get more information in our guide to Zero Trust Segmentation for Energy Providers.

Ready to learn more about Illumio ZTS? Contact us for a consultation and demo today.

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Assume Breach.
Minimize Impact.
Increase Resilience.

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