Securing the Heart of Industry: Protecting OT

Property & Casualty

Securing the Heart of Industry: Protecting OT

Despite a lull in 2022, the recent increases in ransomware attacks have prompted organizations to commit additional resources to protect IT networks. The interruption of Information Technology (IT) computer systems often receives significant focus across all industries, however, attacks targeting manufacturers and their underlying Operational Technology (OT) systems are steadily increasing.

Attacks upon process manufacturing, discrete manufacturing and critical industrial infrastructures have physical consequences that transitioned a theoretical problem during the last decade to a real threat today. In 2022, these attacks increased 140% over the previous year and impacted over 150 industrial operations, calling for additional security and coverage.1

Convergence of IT & OT

This year, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued advisories regarding 49 vulnerabilities in eight industrial control systems (ICS) used by organizations in multiple critical infrastructure sectors in one month. The CISA advisories coincided with a report from the European Union on threats to the transportation sector that warned of the potential for ransomware attacks on OT systems used by aviation, maritime, railway and road transport agencies.

Many OT networks are outside of the purview of the traditional IT Security umbrella and are often the responsibility of plant engineers who apply security controls outside of standardization. These systems are typically older and inherently vulnerable due to outdated code that did not initially employ security-by-design principles.

Possible Impacts of an OT Cyberattack

Business Interruption & Reputational Harm

In August 2023, Clorox disclosed in an SEC 8-K filing that it detected unauthorized activity on its systems. Clorox described the cyberattack as “material” and stated that the impact would be reflected in Q1 financial results. The cyberattack caused disruption to the company’s production capacity, triggered product outages at retailers, and disrupted order  processing and supply chain operations. It took more than one month for Clorox to normalize operations. The decrease in Clorox’s net sales due to the cyber-attack is estimated to be around $500M, which the company estimated to be a decrease of 23 – 28% from the same quarter in the previous year.

Some businesses have not been able to recover from cyberattack losses. In late 2022, Prophete, a German bicycle manufacturing business, was compromised for over three weeks, during which no production could occur. The company inevitably had to declare bankruptcy after a $50M loss in sales.

Insurance. Insurance buyers can look for coverage under cyber and property policies, which have incorporated coverage for cyber-caused business interruption. Cyber insurance targets this exposure broadly with significant limits available in addition to cover for reputational harm.

Physical Asset Replacement

Recent malware can infect the core hardware infrastructure and result in “bricking,” which requires the replacement of hardware, software, reconfigurations, integrations to OT systems and expedited shipping costs for replacement systems. In 2012, a malware called Shamoon wiped out more than 50,000 hard drives at Saudi Aramco, costing millions to expedite replacements.

Insurance. Physical asset replacement is likely to only come from a cyber insurance policy. Replacement of “computer equipment” is now common in these programs, but it is important to review the “betterment” provisions for full reimbursement of equivalent systems.

Property Damage / Human Injury

Targeted attacks can mirror the normal operations of ICS and SCADA systems while manipulating physical assets to dangerous levels. In simple terms, hackers hide activities so that machinery controls and monitoring systems do not alert companies to an attack in progress.

Insurance. Direct property damage can be covered under property and cyber policies. Care should be taken when negotiating property exclusions and coverages, as some do not allow cover after a cyber-attack. Liability from third-party property and bodily damage claims can be covered under GL policy, provided special cyber-specific exclusions are not added. Cyber policies will cover direct property damage under specific programs or policy extensions by a limited number of markets.

1 Waterfall, 2023 Threat Report

Christopher Keegan

Senior Managing Director

Salman Ansari

Managing Director