Protecting Critical Infrastructure: The Role of Next Gen SIEM in Securing Modern Utilities

Microsoft’s 2022 Digital Defense Report reveals that there has been an increase of cyberattacks that target critical infrastructure. The report says that around 40 percent of nation-state attacks in 2022 targeted critical infrastructure. The drastic rise in the volume of these cyber threats is associated with the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. However, even without this conflict, there was already an upturn in vital infrastructure attacks.

Protecting Critical Infrastructure  The Role of Next Gen SIEM in Securing Modern Utilities

However, the recent major attacks have not compelled most organizations to respond with urgency. According to the 2022 Thales Data Threat Report: Critical Infrastructure Edition, “awareness of changing risks is high among critical infrastructure organizations, but this hasn’t accelerated how organizations address them.”

This should not be the case, especially with the availability of reliable modern cybersecurity solutions. One of these solutions is next generation security information and event management (NG-SIEM). An update to traditional SIEM introduced in 2005, Next gen SIEM helps organizations respond to threat alerts and security events more efficiently. It addresses the new challenges in the ever-evolving cyber threat landscape.

Addressing the weaknesses of traditional SIEM

Traditional SIEM is associated with the following weaknesses: slow deployment, high complexity, too much noise, incompatibility with the cloud ecosystem, and high cost. Next generation SIEM addresses these by providing new tools and functions that make it easier to manage security data and respond to security incidents.

Next gen SIEM is a significantly improved iteration of SIEM, as it is often a SaaS solution that unifies various security tools in a single platform with an enhanced user interface and user experience. Also, it comes with advanced analytics, big data technologies, artificial intelligence, and open integration with security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) systems. NG-SIEM may also include user and entity behavior analysis (UEBA) functions and data modeling plugins.

Deploying SIEM used to take months because of its complex setup and the need for multiple admins to manage various security data sources and re-route security events information. With next gen SIEM implemented as a software-as-a-service, organizations do not have to deploy, configure, and maintain a system on-premise. The system operates on the cloud and can be accessed from anywhere. Plugins may also be installed to expand the Next genSIEM system’s capabilities.

On the other hand, traditional SIEM is known for generating too many security alerts, which makes it difficult to address critical and urgent security events in a timely manner. This was not an issue before, because of the fewer types and less aggressive attacks. Now, next gen SIEM is necessary to correlate and contextualize security alerts, so that they can be prioritized and addressed promptly. Prioritization prevents tons of irrelevant/benign alerts and false positives from burying critical or urgent alerts and events.

Moreover, traditional SIEM is not cloud-friendly. It is difficult to achieve security visibility into cloud assets. Organizations that use cloud systems and hybrid IT infrastructure have to use other tools to manage all enterprise security information and events. This entails more complexity, slower deployment, less agility, and an incomplete grasp of the cyber threat situation. next gen SIEM is designed to seamlessly encompass cloud security and ensure an optimum security posture.

Next Gen SIEM and EO 14028

Last May 2021, US President Joe Biden signed Executive Order 14028, entitled “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity.” This EO requires all federal government offices and agencies to bolster cybersecurity by ensuring endpoint protection, clearly defining system logging requirements, enforcing unified audit logs, and improving cybersecurity capabilities to gain more meaningful insights into actions that affect user accounts and systems.

The White House acknowledges that Biden’s EO 14028 was drafted in response to the succession of serious cyber attacks on critical infrastructure. The frequent ransomware and other forms of attacks targeting crucial public utilities and other major infrastructure have alarmed the Executive Department, as they endanger national security and the lives of the public.

next generation SIEM fits into this mandate for heightened cybersecurity, as it corresponds to EO 14028’s order to unify audit logs and define system logging requirements more meaningfully. Audit logs, in particular, were mentioned in three technical sections, pointing out their importance in ensuring timely incident response and security awareness or visibility.

Also, next gen SIEM represents a cybersecurity upgrade that takes into account the new kinds of threats organizations encounter, especially those related to the cloud. The widespread use of cloud assets and solutions has provided significant benefits, but it has also created more vulnerabilities and attack surfaces for threat actors. It is crucial to gain security visibility into these assets and systems.

Securing modern utilities

The attack on Israel’s water systems, ransomware infection of San Francisco’s Municipal Railway light-rail system, and the more recent Colonial Pipeline attack prove that critical infrastructure is not only vulnerable to cybercrime. They are also being actively targeted by threat actors, especially state-sponsored hackers.

Often, critical infrastructure IT teams do not pay meticulous attention to cybersecurity. In Colonial Pipeline's case, for example, the main vulnerability was an exposed VPN account password, which was used for another account in a different location. It’s a vulnerability that could have been easily plugged by multi-factor authentication.

Next gen SIEM helps modern utilities in preventing potentially disastrous cyber attacks by raising alerts over all kinds of vulnerabilities such as the lack of MFA in securing accounts. next generation SIEM provides real-time monitoring and alerts to make sure that security weaknesses are rectified as soon as possible before they are spotted and exploited by threat actors.

Also, NG-SIEM harnesses artificial intelligence to automatically conduct security analysis. This allows security teams to detect abnormal or malicious data movements, which can indicate the early stages of an attack or an ongoing anomalous activity that initially appears harmless but is actually a high-impact attack.

Next gen security information and event management does more than just monitor logs from various sources. It contextualizes them and establishes priorities to reveal urgent security concerns that would otherwise be left unnoticed because of the deluge of security alerts and events information.

Moreover, next gen SIEM affords even late adopters of modern cybersecurity technologies with the ability to quickly deploy, expand, and utilize an up-to-date security information and events management platform. Its scalable architecture as well as its SaaS multi-tier, multi-site, and multi-tenant nature allows almost all kinds of organizations to quickly adopt the system and fend off threats effectively as soon as possible.

Critical security for critical infrastructure

Power plants and grids, water systems, railway systems, manufacturing and industrial facilities, gas pipes, and other critical infrastructure may not look like the flashy high-tech gadgets many are familiar with. However, they usually have digital footprints and web-enabled components that expose them to cyber attacks.

Certainly, reverting to analog systems is not an option. What modern utilities need are better cybersecurity solutions that can undertake continuous monitoring, AI that helps contextualize and prioritize security alerts, and real-time security monitoring that can facilitate prompt threat response. Next gen SIEM embodies all of these and provides many other features to protect critical infrastructure.

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Online Threat Alerts Security Tips

Pay the safest way

Credit cards are the safest way to pay for online purchases because you can dispute the charges if you never get the goods or services or if the offer was misrepresented. Federal law limits your liability to $50 if someone makes unauthorized charges to your account, and most credit card issuers will remove them completely if you report the problem promptly.

Guard your personal information

In any transaction you conduct, make sure to check with your state or local consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if the seller, charity, company, or organization is credible. Be especially wary if the entity is unfamiliar to you. Always call the number found on a website’s contact information to make sure the number legitimately belongs to the entity you are dealing with.

Be careful of the information you share

Never give out your codes, passwords or personal information, unless you are sure of who you're dealing with

Know who you’re dealing with

Crooks pretending to be from companies you do business with may call or send an email, claiming they need to verify your personal information. Don’t provide your credit card or bank account number unless you are actually paying for something and know who you are sending payment to. Your social security number should not be necessary unless you are applying for credit. Be especially suspicious if someone claiming to be from a company with whom you have an account asks for information that the business already has.

Check your accounts

Regularly check your account transactions and report any suspicious or unauthorised transactions.

Don’t believe promises of easy money

If someone claims that you can earn money with little or no work, get a loan or credit card even if you have bad credit, or make money on an investment with little or no risk, it’s probably a scam. Oftentimes, offers that seem too good to be true, actually are too good to be true.

Do not open email from people you don’t know

If you are unsure whether an email you received is legitimate, try contacting the sender directly via other means. Do not click on any links in an email unless you are sure it is safe.

Think before you click

If an email or text message looks suspicious, don’t open any attachments or click on the links.

Verify urgent requests or unsolicited emails, messages or phone calls before you respond

If you receive a message or a phone call asking for immediate action and don't know the sender, it could be a phishing message.

Be careful with links and new website addresses

Malicious website addresses may appear almost identical to legitimate sites. Scammers often use a slight variation in spelling or logo to lure you. Malicious links can also come from friends whose email has unknowingly been compromised, so be careful.

Secure your personal information

Before providing any personal information, such as your date of birth, Social Security number, account numbers, and passwords, be sure the website is secure.

Stay informed on the latest cyber threats

Keep yourself up to date on current scams by visiting this website daily.

Use Strong Passwords

Strong passwords are critical to online security.

Keep your software up to date and maintain preventative software programs

Keep all of your software applications up to date on your computers and mobile devices. Install software that provides antivirus, firewall, and email filter services.

Update the operating systems on your electronic devices

Make sure your operating systems (OSs) and applications are up to date on all of your electronic devices. Older and unpatched versions of OSs and software are the target of many hacks. Read the CISA security tip on Understanding Patches and Software Updates for more information.

What if You Got Scammed?

Stop Contact With The Scammer

Hang up the phone. Do not reply to emails, messages, or letters that the scammer sends. Do not make any more payments to the scammer. Beware of additional scammers who may contact you claiming they can help you get your lost money back.

Secure Your Finances

  • Report potentially compromised bank account, credit or debit card information to your financial institution(s) immediately. They may be able to cancel or reverse fraudulent transactions.
  • Notify the three major credit bureaus. They can add a fraud alert to warn potential credit grantors that you may be a victim of identity theft. You may also want to consider placing a free security freeze on your credit report. Doing so prevents lenders and others from accessing your credit report entirely, which will prevent them from extending credit:

Check Your Computer

If your computer was accessed or otherwise affected by a scam, check to make sure that your anti-virus is up-to-date and running and that your system is free of malware and keylogging software. You may also need to seek the help of a computer repair company. Consider utilizing the Better Business Bureau’s website to find a reputable company.

Change Your Account Passwords

Update your bank, credit card, social media, and email account passwords to try to limit further unauthorized access. Make sure to choose strong passwords when changing account passwords.

Report The Scam

Reporting helps protect others. While agencies can’t always track down perpetrators of crimes against scammers, they can utilize the information gathered to record patterns of abuse which may lead to action being taken against a company or industry.

Report your issue to the following agencies based on the nature of the scam:

  • Local Law Enforcement: Consumers are encouraged to report scams to their local police department or sheriff’s office, especially if you lost money or property or had your identity compromised.
  • Federal Trade Commission: Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or use the Online Complaint Assistant to report various types of fraud, including counterfeit checks, lottery or sweepstakes scams, and more.
  • If someone is using your personal information, like your Social Security, credit card, or bank account number, to open new accounts, make purchases, or get a tax refund, report it at This federal government site will also help you create your Identity Theft Report and a personal recovery plan based on your situation. Questions can be directed to 877-ID THEFT.

How To Recognize a Phishing Scam

Scammers use email or text messages to try to steal your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers. If they get that information, they could get access to your email, bank, or other accounts. Or they could sell your information to other scammers. Scammers launch thousands of phishing attacks like these every day — and they’re often successful.

Scammers often update their tactics to keep up with the latest news or trends, but here are some common tactics used in phishing emails or text messages:

Phishing emails and text messages often tell a story to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment. You might get an unexpected email or text message that looks like it’s from a company you know or trust, like a bank or a credit card or utility company. Or maybe it’s from an online payment website or app. The message could be from a scammer, who might

  • say they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts — they haven’t
  • claim there’s a problem with your account or your payment information — there isn’t
  • say you need to confirm some personal or financial information — you don’t
  • include an invoice you don’t recognize — it’s fake
  • want you to click on a link to make a payment — but the link has malware
  • say you’re eligible to register for a government refund — it’s a scam
  • offer a coupon for free stuff — it’s not real

About Online Threat Alerts (OTA)

Online Threat Alerts or OTA is an anti-cybercrime community that started in 2012. OTA alerts the public to cyber crimes and other web threats.

By alerting the public, we have prevented a lot of online users from getting scammed or becoming victims of cybercrimes.

With the ever-increasing number of people going online, it important to have a community like OTA that continuously alerts or protects those same people from cyber-criminals, scammers and hackers, who are every day finding new ways of carrying out their malicious activities.

Online users can help by reporting suspicious or malicious messages or websites to OTA. And, if they want to determine if a message or website is a threat or scam, they can use OTA's search engine to search for the website or parts of the message for information.

Help maintain Online Threat Alerts (OTA).

Protecting Critical Infrastructure: The Role of Next Gen SIEM in Securing Modern Utilities