Understanding the crucial role of cybersecurity might seem daunting, especially amidst budgetary concerns. However, it is important to realize that investing in cybersecurity for utilities is not as intimidating or financially draining as it may initially appear. Proper planning and prioritization can make this process smoother, transforming it from a financial burden into a strategic asset that safeguards your organization’s key infrastructure and secures its future. First, let’s look at the aspects of cybersecurity that must be addressed within the budget planning process:
- Firewalls and VPNs: Essential for securing the perimeter of the network, firewalls help prevent unauthorized access and VPNs secure remote connections.
- Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS): These systems monitor network traffic for suspicious behavior and issue alerts when potential threats are detected.
- Antivirus Software: This is crucial for detecting and eliminating malicious software that might infiltrate the system.
- Data Backup Solutions: Regular backups help to ensure that data can be restored in the event of a loss or breach.
- Encryption Tools: Encryption is vital for protecting sensitive data during transmission or storage.
- Employee Training: Human error is a major risk factor, so regular cybersecurity awareness training for staff is important.
- Regular Auditing and Compliance: Regular audits help ensure that systems remain secure and compliant with relevant regulations.
IT & OT Together
Given these areas for budgeting, it is imperative that IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operational Technology) leaders in utilities work synergistically to ensure proper cybersecurity allocations and spending. IT leaders, with their deep understanding of technology, can identify potential vulnerabilities and suggest effective solutions. However, these solutions must be pragmatically balanced against the real-world operational needs of the utility, which is where the expertise of OT leaders is indispensable. By jointly deciding on budget priorities and allocations, IT and OT leaders can ensure funds are optimally spent—upgrading systems where necessary, investing in crucial preventive measures like firewalls or antivirus software, and facilitating regular employee training. A harmonious IT-OT collaboration results in a robust cybersecurity framework that is both cost-effective and efficient, reducing the risk of security breaches and enhancing the overall resilience of the organization.
But Let’s Consider OT’s Unique Needs
Operational Technology (OT) has a unique set of cybersecurity needs due to its direct control over industrial processes and critical infrastructure. The following are the most critical cybersecurity considerations for OT security:
- Industrial Firewalls: These are specifically designed to handle the unique requirements and protocols of industrial networks, providing enhanced protection against threats.
- Network Segmentation: Keeping OT networks separate from IT networks can limit the damage of a potential breach and prevent the spread of malware.
- Endpoint Protection: This is pivotal in securing OT systems from threats that can be introduced via portable storage devices or other hardware.
- Security Incident and Event Management (SIEM): This provides real-time analysis of security alerts and can help in detecting and responding to incidents promptly.
- Regular Patch Management: Up-to-date patching is important as unpatched systems can serve as easy entry points for cybercriminals.
Each of these solutions plays a crucial role in ensuring the integrity, availability, and confidentiality of OT systems—fundamental to maintaining the seamless functionality of critical infrastructure and continuous operations.
Let’s expand on one critical example, Network segmentation, which is the practice of dividing a computer network into subnetworks, each being a network segment. This can improve network performance and enhance security by limiting the access of potential attackers to data and networked resources. Essentially, it reduces the battle space. In the context of OT, network segmentation becomes critically important. It isolates OT networks from IT networks, creating an additional layer of security. Should a breach occur in one part of the network, the segmentation ensures that the intrusion cannot spread unchecked across the entire system. This is vital for OT systems that control essential infrastructures, as it minimizes the risk of substantial operational disruptions and maintains the integrity of critical processes. Thus, network segmentation is a pivotal technique in OT cybersecurity. To further substantiate OT’s needs around security, refer to the NIST Guide to Operational Technology Security.
So, we can see that, given IT’s responsibilities and OT’s unique needs, CISOs, CTOs, and CIOs need to carefully consider the entire landscape when budgeting for overall cybersecurity. Utilities require a full solutions set that addresses all critical aspects.
How Much Are We Talking Here?
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to how much of the total IT budget should be allocated to cybersecurity, the average enterprise typically allocates around 5.6% of their IT budget to security, according to Gartner. However, this percentage can vary greatly depending on the specific industry, the sensitivity of the data, and the overall risk profile of the organization. Gartner postulates that utilities can require a higher percentage (up to 10% of the overall enterprise IT budget) due to regulatory compliance and the high value of their data and criticality of continued operations. It’s vital that utilities continuously reassess their cybersecurity needs and adjust their budgets accordingly to effectively protect against evolving threats.
While IT and OT have distinct roles within an organization, their overlap within cybersecurity is significant and growing. Both systems are increasingly interconnected, which means that a vulnerability in one can potentially expose the other to risks. IT systems often handle data storage, process automation, and general computing tasks. In contrast, OT manages industrial control systems and physical processes. Despite their distinct roles, both systems share a common goal: ensuring the confidential, secure, and safe operation of the organization. Consequently, safeguarding both kinds of systems from cyber threats is paramount. Examples of overlap include the need for threat detection and response, vulnerability management, and network monitoring, all of which help protect against potential cyber-attacks. Given the interaction between IT and OT in the realm of cybersecurity, budgeting must be pursued as a whole, providing a comprehensive, unified approach to protect the digital and physical assets of an organization.
According to a Capterra article, the cost of Network Security Software can vary significantly based on several factors. These factors include the size of the organization, the complexity of the network, and the specific security requirements. The article suggests that small entities can expect to spend anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 per year on network security software, while medium-sized entities might spend between $15,000 and
$50,000. Large enterprises, with more complex networks and higher security demands, could likely spend over $100,000 annually. These costs underline the necessity of proper budgeting to maintain robust cybersecurity defenses.
But Help is Available for Utilities
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has proposed a voluntary cyber incentive to alleviate the budget constraints that utilities face while enhancing their cybersecurity measures. (CLICK HERE to check it out.) The idea behind this incentive is to encourage utilities to step beyond the minimum requirements expected for cybersecurity and reward them for doing so. This incentive, while voluntary, provides utilities with a mechanism to recover costs for cybersecurity investments deemed prudent above and beyond the Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) standards set by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). By providing financial incentives, FERC aims to inspire utilities to invest more heavily in cybersecurity, thereby improving their defenses against potential cyber threats and attacks. This voluntary program, thus, plays a vital role in fostering a proactive cybersecurity culture within the industry.
In summary, enterprises generally allocate around 5.6% of their IT budget to security, with utilities often needing to invest a higher percentage due to regulatory compliance and data sensitivity. The need for continuous reassessment of cybersecurity budgets in response to evolving threats is critical. The collaboration of Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) in budget planning can significantly enhance the security posture of an organization. By merging the expertise of both IT and OT, organizations can ensure that cybersecurity investments are directed towards areas that need them the most, thereby not only improving their cyber defenses but also optimizing their cybersecurity expenditure.
The Budget Balancing Act: Save on One Area to Boost Another
Utilities leaders need time to strategize their staffing models, to find and retain the right cybersecurity professionals with the right qualifications. Before examining how much to dedicate to these staffing issues, leaders can start by putting the right protective solutions in place that do not require extensive staff training and continuous specialized operational monitoring. CyberCloak™ capabilities are protocol agnostic, easy-to-deploy, and immediately actionable up front solution to protect critical assets, data, and operations, requiring minimal staff training, which provides huge savings on overall cybersecurity spending. https://blueridgenetworks.com/ Contact our partners for affordable full solutions sets that cover every aspect of cybersecurity for utilities. https://blueridgenetworks.com/partners/