New cybersecurity compliance rules passed by the European Parliament compel industrial organizations to finally confront the growing cyber threat.
On May 10, 2018, the Network and Information System (NIS) directive became law in the European Union. In it, operators of essential services (OES) and digital service providers (DSPs) are required to abide by certain newly enforced compliance edicts.
The regulations themselves were constructed to help provide a framework to make secure and more resilient both critical information systems as well as critical infrastructure. Any operations that have more than 50 employees and/or a balance sheet of greater than €10 million must comply with these newly established regulations which were first conceived in 2016.
Understanding the basics of NIS operational guidelines
The NIS directive establishes a baseline security posture for organizations which includes:
- Establish a basic security practice at the organizational and technical level
- Continue to iterate on this process based on new developments or potential risks that make their way into the wild
- Ensure that if there is a security incident, there are means in place to minimize the impact of said incident
- Have a notification system established to the supervising authority for any and all security incidents that have a significant impact on operations, usually within a maximum of 72 hours
This NIS guidance goes further to establish some basic operational guidelines as to how to achieve an appropriate security posture. It includes deploying robust cybersecurity defenses, preventative measures, and operational systems that can mitigate and report on the incident within the aforementioned time frame.
Why was the NIS cybersecurity directive introduced now?
Most industries today already have an alphabet soup of regulations to comply with; so, why NIS and why now? Over the course of the last several years, cyberattacks that target critical infrastructure providers have increased.
Whereas these systems used to be isolated from the outside world, today due to the convergence of IT and operational technology (OT) infrastructure, and the implementation of IIoT (industrial internet of things) devices, much of the critical infrastructure components are unguarded and vulnerable. Rather than targeting IT infrastructure, which has a more robust security practice, cyberattacks focus on the weak link of the chain which is the OT infrastructure.
With the retargeting of debilitating attacks now bearing down on critical infrastructure and threatening the way much of the world lives, organizations must examine how they will secure their OT environments before it is too late.
NIS established this minimum standard not to inconvenience organizations but to get them to a base standard to help thwart industrial cyberattacks should the unthinkable happen. While the proverbial train has left the station and compliance rules are now in effect, there are some basic initiatives you can implement to help get you most of the way to full compliance, and beyond.
To learn more, take a look at the “Achieving NIS Compliance Guide” which pulls excerpts from the NIS regulation and explains the steps to take to help satisfy each requirement.