Symantec Corp today released the findings of its 2011 Critical Infrastructure Protection Survey, which found a drop in awareness and engagement on a global basis as measured by the participation index.

Compared to 2010, companies surveyed this year show a CIP Participation Index of 82 percent in government protection programs, down 18 points from last year.

Critical infrastructure providers come from industries that are of such importance that if their cyber networks were successfully attacked and disabled, it would result in an actual threat to national security.

The findings of this survey are somewhat alarming, given recent attacks like Nitro and Duqu that have targeted critical infrastructure providers.” – Dean Turner, director Global Intelligence Network for Symantec

Survey Highlights:

  • Lower awareness and engagement in government CIP programs. This year, companies are generally less aware of their government’s CIP programs. Thirty-six percent of respondents were somewhat or completely aware of the government critical infrastructure plans being discussed in their country compared to 55 percent last year.
  • Slightly more ambivalence about government CIP programs. The survey also revealed that companies are more ambivalent in 2011 than they were in 2010 about government CIP programs.
  • Global Organizations feel less prepared. It is not surprising that as an organization’s assessment of the threat drops, their readiness drops as well. Overall readiness on a global scale fell an average of eight points (from 60 to 63 percent in 2011 compared with 68 to 70 percent in 2010).

Recommendations to ensure resiliency against critical infrastructure cyber attacks:

  • Develop and enforce IT policies and automate compliance processes. By prioritizing risks and defining policies that span across all locations, organizations can enforce policies through built-in automation and workflow and not only identify threats but remediate incidents as they occur or anticipate them before they happen.
  • Protect information proactively by taking an information-centric approach to protect both information and interactions. Taking a content-aware approach to protecting information is key in knowing who owns the information, where sensitive information resides, who has access, and how it is coming in or leaving your organization.
  • Manage systems by implementing secure operating environments, distributing and enforcing patch levels, automating processes to streamline efficiency, and monitoring and reporting on system status.
  • Protect the infrastructure by securing endpoints, messaging and Web environments. In addition, defending critical internal servers and implementing the ability to back up and recover data should be priorities. Organizations also need the visibility and security intelligence to respond to threats rapidly.
  • Ensure 24×7 availability.
  • Develop an information management strategy that includes an information retention plan and policies. Organizations need to stop using backup for archiving and legal holds, implement deduplication everywhere to free resources, use a full-featured archive system and deploy data loss prevention technologies.

Recommendations for governments to promote critical infrastructure protection:

  • Governments should continue to put forth the resources to establish government critical infrastructure programs.
  • Governments should partner with industry associations and private enterprise groups to disseminate information to raise awareness of government CIP organizations and plans, with specifics about how a response would work in the face of a national cyber attack, what the roles of government would be, who the specific contacts are for various industries at a regional and national level, and how government and private business would share information in the event of an emergency.
  • Governments should emphasize that security is not enough to stay resilient in the face of today’s cyber attacks. Governments should also emphasize to critical infrastructure providers and enterprises that their information be stored, backed up, organized, prioritized, and that proper identity and access control processes are in place.