Usually, such attacks are meticulously planned months in advance and under-protected networks are allowing criminals to cross the threshold of infrastructure networks.

Vectra’s research stated that Russia and other nation state criminals are accessing critical infrastructure through lesser-protected networks, and these entry points need to be better secured. A report from the US Department of Homeland Security stated that Russian entities targeted hundreds of energy and non-energy companies in 2017 through spear-phishing emails, and successfully accessed one power plant’s operational technology.

If you want to shut down the infrastructure of a country, you shut down the grid, you shut down the fuel generating refineries,” Eddie Habibi, founder and CEO of PAS, a cybersecurity firm for energy and power industries, told Bloomberg Environment. “That’s what happens at the start of a war, you attack their critical infrastructure.

The frequency of cyberattacks on the energy sector targeting systems that run critical infrastructure, like generation plants has increased at least sevenfold over the last seven years, Habibi said.

Criminals usually study the infrastructure thoroughly, and then launch a targeted attack on weak points. To achieve this, hackers use malware and spear-phishing techniques to trick employees into providing access. They can then use administrator rights to watch and gather data.

Experts believe this “covert abuse of administrative credentials” allows attackers unlimited access to crucial data and this is a very critical risk area in a cyberattack lifecycle. At times like this, robust traffic monitoring tools are essential.

However, there has been an increase in utility companies approaching cybersecurity vendors to help provide solutions. For intance, Siemens partnered with two major cybersecurity firms in 2017 to create a managed cybersecurity business offering, which helps energy clients monitor and detect cyber abnormalities. A lot can be accomplished -monitoring, visibility and detection as the power of analytics is key.