2021 has been no slouch when it comes to bringing new challenges, increased risks, and the need for improved cybersecurity solutions in public and private domains.

Here’s a look at the industries and cybersecurity trends we’ve covered this summer.

view of oil refinery
Aerial view of an oil refinery, an example of OT infrastructure

JCDC: New Center Comprised of Federal Agencies, Private Sector, State and Local Governments Join Forces to Prevent Cyberattacks

The Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative (JCDC), an ambitious public-private partnership, launched in August. Led by Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Director Jen Easterly, the goals are to anticipate, prevent, and thwart cyberattacks aimed at the United States’ digital infrastructure. Most government departments and agencies are participating, as are major companies – with two notable exceptions.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Cybersecurity, and the Oil and Gas Industry’s Transition to Clean Energy

The oil and gas industries are understandably concerned about the market pressures presented by solar, wind, and other clean energy efforts. An industry conference held in August looked specifically at the use of sensors and other smart devices as part of their operational technology stack. Smart devices present new opportunities, but also greatly increase cybersecurity challenges. The most difficult and necessary transition for this industry is the one few companies do well…

Operational Technology (OT) a Growing Cybersecurity Risk

Operational technology doesn’t just affect oil and gas producers. In fact, OT is one of the weakest links in overall security right now, as this year’s Colonial Pipeline attack demonstrated. OT and IoT risks amplify cybersecurity risks. But OT also increases organizational risk, insider threat risks, and reputational risk, too.

Clean Water, Cybersecurity: Another OT Sector at Risk

Among the most crucial systems at risk of cybersecurity malfeasance is one we rely on every day: drinking water. 2021 demonstrated this risk, too, with the cyberattack on a wastewater treatment plant that – thankfully – didn’t escalate. The water industry’s 2021 State of the Sector report, released this summer, shows efforts at improving resiliency but portrays an industry with a lot of distance to cover.

Recent Events Demonstrate More Machine Learning is Necessary for Security

More recently, the military’s use of, and need for, more machine learning entered the spotlight. Machine learning has quickly jumped from research labs into mainstream use, and its growth is only beginning. How we harness artificial intelligence on behalf of national security – and how ML/AI can be used to improve human processes, is an ongoing work-in-progress. As governments and private industry include more ML in decision making, we must consider how human biases can undermine, misuse, or damage the work of algorithms.

We will continue to watch what 2021 brings us in cybersecurity news and trends. Disclosure: NetCentrics provides cybersecurity services in some of the industries mentioned in this article.

Photo by Nate Watson