Tackling cybersecurity head on

As organisations across the globe battle a barrage of cyber-attacks, Vocus is determined to ensure its customers can weather the storm with resilience.

Many wouldn’t associate mining with internet cybersecurity systems.

But they are as critical as the cybersecurity systems of any company in any industry.

A mine’s cybersecurity systems help guard against threats such as phishing, ransomware and data theft before they can cause harm to the business.

While a mine might not seem like a cyber attacker’s usual target, Vocus cyber specialist Stephen Mullaney says any company has the potential to become the focus of an attack.

“There are a lot of bad actors out there who deploy ransomware to disrupt other companies’ operations as their day-to-day business,” Mullaney told Australian Mining. “They don’t really care what industry it is as long as they can get in and put a company in a compromised position.”

Vocus state manager WA and national lead Simon Head said mines had traditionally implemented security to standard parameters, such as firewalls that protect their systems from the outside world.

But criminals are getting much smarter about bypassing standard security barriers and cybersecurity systems need to be multilayered and resilient to yet-to-be-discovered forms of intrusion.

“Vocus runs highly secure networks and we have done so for decades,” Head told Australian Mining. “As the technologies evolve, and as organisations have looked to implement stronger, more robust security policies, we’ve evolved with the market.

“We have also established a number of partnerships with many of the leading security players in the market that complement what we already do from a network security perspective.”

Vocus has seen key mining players implement stronger solutions to help combat the threat of cyber-attacks to help ensure nothing can get to their employee data or safety measures.

“Some of the most forward-thinking miners have implemented things like network segmentation, which means that even if a bad actor were to break into their internal network, they couldn’t go far,” Mullaney said.

“It also pays to separate your IT (information technology) and OT (operational technology) systems because if someone were to get into an IT system like HR or employee information, they can’t then jump to your OT system and mess with the autonomous vehicles or tailings dams monitoring systems. And vice-versa.”

Head said the challenges for miners lies in promoting cyber resiliency.

“Most organisations now understand that cybersecurity is necessary even if they haven’t previously experienced a cyber-attack on their systems,” he said.

“Vocus is helping these organisations stay resilient, stay online and ensure every part of their business is resilient to any form of attack.”

According to Vocus, cyber resiliency is the future of cyber-attack protection and should replace the traditional “throw money at it and hope it works” mindset.

“With a mine, so much of its information, monitoring and processes are there to ensure worker safety, so mines are now starting to take cyber resiliency very seriously as a result,” Mullaney said.

“The cybersecurity landscape has changed dramatically over the last three to five years, so much so that it will be one of the first things a board will discuss when they meet.”

While cybersecurity may be the topic at board meetings, Head said all employees in a workplace have a responsibility to report anything suspicious going on.

“Vocus has an internal mantra of ‘see something, say something’, and we aim to help our customers’ organisations achieve a similar level of awareness when it comes to cybersecurity,” he said.

For Head, being part of a customer’s cybersecurity journey is something of which he and Vocus are especially proud.

“Vocus has decades of experience, and we want to share that with these companies,” Head said. “We’re happy to talk to any organisation in the industry, both now and in the future, about how we can help them build cybersecurity resilience, rather than being reactive to an attack when it happens.”

This feature appeared in the December 2023 issue of Australian Mining.

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