Fending Off Cyber Attacks - Why Cellular IoT and Private Mobile Networks should be part of the defence
8 June 2021

Fending Off Cyber Attacks - Why Cellular IoT and Private Mobile Networks should be part of the defence

8 June 2021

This blog continues our discussions about the uses and viability of Private Mobile Networks - and adds IoT Security into the mix.

Last month the Biden administration declared a state of emergency in 17 states and Washington D.C. following a ransomware attack on Colonial, a company which moves about 2.5 million barrels of liquid fuels along its pipeline every day.

Petrol stations in the US started to run dry and prices rose following the closure of the Colonial Pipeline, which runs 8,900km stretching from New Jersey to Texas and supplies nearly half of the East Coast's fuel.

According to this BBC story, The FBI said a criminal gang called DarkSide and based in Russia or Eastern Europe were responsible for the attack… “Even the hackers themselves seem surprised by the damage they've caused”.

Dan Verton, a former intelligence officer in the US Marine Corps and author of several books on cybersecurity, comments that “Everybody knew an incident like the one targeting Colonial Pipeline was coming. The warning lights have been blinking red for 20 years. It was only four years ago that the Russian threat group known as Sandworm took down the Ukrainian power grid. A year later, the NotPetya ransomware attack cost shipping company Maersk and FedEx $300 million each. There will be more Colonial Pipeline attacks on other critical infrastructures and businesses”.

This past week alone the NYC subway operator and Martha’s Vineyard fell victim as well as US meatpacking plants - and these are just the companies that admit to an attack. 

Dan Verton says thatCyber-risk should be viewed and treated the same as any other operational risk. Cyber threats are not hypotheticals — they are imminent and very real risks to businesses. However, without understanding that risk is a business issue, not a technical issue, critical infrastructure owners and operators will likely not focus their resources on the right things”.

Using Private Mobile Networks to Provide IoT Security

One immediate consequence of the cyber attack was that the sensors and safety systems which protect and monitor Colonial’s pipeline were taken offline; staff were immediately re-deployed to walk, drive and view the pipeline from helicopters.

In general, the equipment used to monitor pipelines spanning thousands of miles use a combination of satellite, wireless and cellular networks to send and receive data with IPSec used to authenticate and encrypt the data packets at the network layer.

Pretty basic stuff.  However, the team at Telecom26 advise that additional security and control of all connectivity is required.  Ideally, critical infrastructure should be maintained on a private network where end-to-end connectivity is monitored and maintained by the enterprise.  This private network provides an additional layer of security and can be either the primary or secondary means of interconnecting the regional or even global network. 

Private mobile networks are a standard topic of discussion these days for corporate security teams as they allow for the authentication of only provisioned devices approved by the enterprise on that network.  If the devices are not approved, they are denied access.  This allows for sensors to communicate with each other and pass information between nodes securely and efficiently. 

Telecom26 provides the added benefit of extending this control and security to the public network in a semi-private network.  Semi-private networks provide all the benefits of a full private network but interconnect the network to the internet, without jeopardizing network security or control of connectivity. This is particularly of interest for providing connectivity within the HQ or other facilities where service can be enabled to visiting authorized personnel while continuously monitoring communications for any potential breaches.   

If budgets don’t run to a full private mobile network, Telecom26 can provide a public based connectivity option that would use our global cellular network to provide an additional layer of security. 

In a nutshell, all monitoring, sensors and control equipment can use our global SIM cards to connect to our cellular IoT network. 

Then the only way to reach the end-user devices would be via an attack on the mobile network itself.  Our IoT network provides active monitoring and complete private data access – creating an additional layer to stop DoS and attacks from groups whose motive is to extract money from the companies they target.

Another option is to create a backup network enabled by our cellular networks which can be activated in the event of any threat to the main systems.

Protecting Your Systems from Future Attacks

Dan Verton urges action and interest from the most senior people within every organisation: “what this event (Colonial cyber attack) really demonstrates is the urgent need for business leaders and boards of directors to have a conversation with their chief information security officers about cyber-risk in terms they can understand”.

A transition to cellular IoT provides a path that can reduce risk – and the resulting reputational damage and loss of revenue - but only with the right partner that has built-in protection through its cellular core.

Telecom26 - The Global Connectivity Service Provider

At Telecom26, we offer a full range of connectivity options including 5G, LTE, WiFi, IoT, private networks, 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G, as well as offshore connectivity capabilities.

We also work with system integrators and solution vendors to provide a complete, bespoke solution, delivering the connectivity that our customers actually need. 

So please Get in touch to find out how Telecom26 can help improve security - and connectivity - with our IoT security and private mobile network portfolio of products and services designed specifically for all your mission-critical devices.



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