How can mining companies protect their operational technology networks? 

Global cybersecurity revenues from mining have grown steadily since 2020 and are projected to reach $2.5bn by 2025. 

Alongside all other sectors, mining companies will have to work hard to keep up with the increasing frequency and complexity of cyberattacks. As mining becomes more and more interconnected, the Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, augmented reality devices, autonomous vehicles and drones that improve operational efficiency are equally capable of halting activity if they fall prey to cyberattacks. 

As such, mining companies must protect their operations and sensitive data from possible attacks from competitors, nation states, or cybercriminals. 

Operational technology networks need the attention of mining companies 

The operational technology (OT) networks of mining operations are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks with lower security maturity than their corporate counterparts. Within OT networks, autonomous fleets, drone technology, equipment management systems and the industrial internet are all under threat of cyberattacks and face severe consequences. 

These could include the complete shutdown of production activity, loss of revenues, environmental harm, danger to on-site workers and reputational damage to the mining company itself. To combat the risks associated with OT systems, mining companies should focus on identity management policies and software to prevent unauthorised access to their systems. 

The identity management approach would include password management, privileged access levels, biometric identification and multi-factor authentication. Alongside identity management, mining companies should regularly update their OT systems and patch specific vulnerabilities of legacy systems. 

Mining companies can use cybersecurity risk and compliance services to access independent assessments of their current cybersecurity posture. This can also help them keep up to date with any developments in the constantly evolving space of cyber threats and regulation. 

Protecting OT networks through monitoring 

Many cybersecurity vendors have created solutions to protect OT networks. ABB, Nozomi Networks and Darktrace are just three that recognise the effectiveness of constant monitoring to protect OT networks.

ABB offers its integrated Ability System 800xA for 24/7 monitoring of OT networks, supported by experts. Nozomi Networks also employs automated threat detection that monitors OT and IoT environments for any anomalous activity. 

Additionally, and most interestingly, Darktrace uses self-learning AI to stay ahead of cyberthreats. Its AI identifies any change in computer network patterns by focusing on regular business activity rather than breaches. Any unusual activity in the network produces immediate alerts. This assists in identifying cyber threats at the early survey stage and limits or completely prevents breaches. 

The approach by all three of these cybersecurity vendors should highlight to mining companies the inevitable nature of cyberattacks and how vital it is that they use the latest cybersecurity solutions to recognise threats, before they are stuck dealing with the consequences. 

// Main image: Worker with VR headset. Credit: Elizaveta Galitckaia / via Shutterstock