Presented by ESET

Cybercrime threatening mining safety: how to stay protected

When most people think of cybercrime victims, they imagine an office setting with desk-bound employees at computers. However, the reality is that with our increasing dependence on interconnected technologies, no industry sector is immune to cyberattacks – including mining, says Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO of industry-leading IT security software company ESET Southern Africa.

In fact, a 2022 survey by Ernst & Young found that 71% of respondents in the mining sector had seen an increase in the number of disruptive attacks in the year leading up to the survey.

“Leading mining companies in Southern Africa are actively implementing digital transformation projects, and the technology used is becoming more complicated. With connected technology used for production and extraction, the threats these companies face are in some ways even more serious than those in office-based industries because they impact health and safety,” says van Vlaanderen.

With automated machinery and processes such as self-driving hauling trucks and underground ventilation systems becoming more prevalent, it’s easy to see why a network shutdown could be extremely dangerous.

“Cybercrime vulnerabilities must be effectively monitored and mitigated, otherwise mining organisations and employees are left significantly exposed.”

Here are five crucial strategies for the mining industry to safeguard themselves against cyberthreats:

People first

With almost 88% of data breaches due to human error, regular employee training and cybersecurity awareness is a crucial element of any cybersecurity strategy, says van Vlaanderen. “Employees should be reminded on an ongoing basis of the risks that are out there and the impact that it can have on them and the business. Humans are prone to mistakes, but these mistakes, ranging from failure to properly delete data from devices to clicking on links in phishing emails, are also preventable.”

Top to bottom

As cyberattacks grow in frequency and complexity, all aspects of the mining value chain are vulnerable. From basics such as implementing password managers and using multi-factor authentication to using cutting-edge security technology to withstand an attack on data and intellectual property, every aspect of the business deserves equal attention, says van Vlaanderen.

“Even the smallest gateway can be used to gain access to sensitive data or intellectual property. Make sure every entry point is protected.”

Budget strategy

In any industry, the emphasis is on spending the minimum to maximise profits. This unfortunately sometimes means that companies take the risk of only installing the minimum cyberprotection they hope will be necessary – and that’s a dangerous position to take. Can your business really afford to go offline for days because your simple anti-virus didn’t do the job? What about the health and safety risks should machinery or operations suddenly come to a halt?

“When it comes to cybersecurity, business leaders in the mining industry need to reframe their cybersecurity approach to one of risk management and risk tolerance,” warns van Vlaanderen.

As within, so without

Mining companies often do comprehensive background checks to verify the credibility of suppliers and ensure compliance. The same should be done to secure against cybercrime, says van Vlaanderen. “Machinery provided or maintained by a third party, for example, may allow remote access for maintenance – and a novel attack path for criminals. Ensure that you’re not unintentionally left exposed by gaining a clear understanding of such policies and processes.”

Do your homework

The Ernst & Young survey also found that 55% of mining and metals executives were worried about their ability to manage a threat. “Mining companies need to be highly attuned to the constantly evolving threat landscape and adapt their defences accordingly,” says van Vlaanderen. “If you’re unsure of your ability to stay ahead of new cybersecurity trends, use a trusted partner who does so. ESET, for example, relies on R&D centres worldwide to ensure protection against the latest developments and our enterprise solutions are backed by 30 years’ industry-leading experience.”

As one of the top ten mining countries in the world, the mining industry is vital to South Africa’s economy and clearly requires the utmost protection from cyberattacks. “Don’t wait until it’s too late,” concludes van Vlaanderen. “Ensure your company is protected from every angle so that it can continue to be a part of this country’s proud mining legacy.”

For more information on ESET, click here. 

Carey van Vlaanderen – CEO at ESET Southern Africa

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Cybercrime threatening mining safety: how to stay protected