Cyber security for safer infrastructure

Protecting sensitive information and infrastructure is a challenge that is rapidly becoming more difficult, as increasingly sophisticated cyber-crimes take their toll on systems previously thought to be safe.

Barely a week goes by without news of a major business suffering a security breach, usually with painful consequences for the organisations, their customers, suppliers, partners and employees. Attacks on financial services companies usually dominate the headlines, but there is growing concern about vulnerabilities within infrastructure systems.

“Illegally accessing bank account details is one thing, but losing control of a power station or a water treatment plant is quite another,” says Peter Bull, Thales Australia’s Vice President of Secure Communications & Information Systems. “In the worst case scenario, the effects could be devastating.”

Protecting people and systems

Thales provides products and services to help infrastructure providers shore up their defences. A global technology and systems group serving defence, aerospace, security and transport markets, it operates in 56 countries, with 65,000 employees and annual sales of around AUD 20 billion.

Thales has developed an extensive international portfolio of secure IT solutions – over 1,500 experts handle critical information systems for hundreds of clients.

Thales is number one worldwide in security for interbank electronic transactions, and number one in Europe in information systems security. Around 70% of the world’s banking transactions are protected by Thales’s e-Security products, as is data for 80% of the largest energy and aerospace companies.

While best known in Australia for military hardware, the company’s team of security specialists in Canberra works closely with the Department of Defence to implement various, often classified, cyber solutions. Thales has helped the Australian Defence Force secure the most complex operational environments and systems for decades.

Thales also protects Australian financial data. Over 80% of all eftpos and ATM transactions are secured by Thales, which is the number one supplier of security modules to the payments industry, and the number two supplier of security modules for non-payment applications.

Thales supplies nine of Australia’s top 10 companies with equipment to secure their operations in some way, and also supplies all the major banks with equipment to protect their financial transactions. Other security projects in Australia include the G20 event management system, plus physical security for a major retailer’s headquarters.

“Because of this background, we recently increased our investment in Australia, and will now offer broader military-grade cyber security services to companies. We’re bringing together world-leading cyber security technology to deliver comprehensive cyber security for complex systems,” says Bull.

“We are also an approved member of the Council of Registered Security Testers (CREST) – the peak body for companies providing penetration testing in Australia.”

Critical Infrastructure

This expertise has relevance for the infrastructure sector, as industry professionals and analysts are increasingly concerned about the weaknesses found in ageing SCADA systems, for example.

“It’s crucial for infrastructure providers to take a long hard look at their security and defences,” Bull stresses. “The threats facing the infrastructure are significant, but proper cyber security measures enable customers to develop new products and services for their own markets with confidence. The increased sophistication of cyber attacks will continue to challenge businesses, and we strongly recommend that infrastructure providers seek as much help as possible in securing their systems – it’s not easy, but these days it’s a critical necessity.”

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