Cyber insurance for civil nuclear facilities

This report from the UK think tank Chatham House sets out a roadmap for how organizations in the civil nuclear sector can explore their options and review their cyber risk exposure.

Civil nuclear facilities and organizations hold sensitive information on security clearances, national security, health and safety, nuclear regulatory issues and international inspection obligations. The sensitivity and variety of such data mean that products tailored for insuring the civil nuclear industry have evolved independently and are likely to continue to do so. ‘Air-gaps’ – measures designed to isolate computer systems from the internet – need to be continually maintained for industrial systems. Yet years of evidence indicate that proper maintenance of such protections is often lacking (mainly because very real economic drivers exist that push users towards keeping infrastructure connected). Indeed, even when air-gaps are maintained, security breaches can still occur.

Even if a particular organization has staff that are highly trained, ready and capable of handling a technological accident, hacking attack or incidence of insider sabotage, it still has to do business and/or communicate with other organizations that may not have the essentials of cybersecurity in place. Regardless of whether the choice is made to buy external insurance or put aside revenues in preparation for costly incidents, the approach to cyber risk calculation should be the same. Prevention is one part of the equation, but an organization will also need to consider the resources and contingency measures available to it should prevention strategies fail. Can it balance the likelihood of a hacker’s success against the maximum cost to the organization, and put aside enough capital and manpower to get it through a crisis?

All civil nuclear facilities should consider the establishment of computer security incident response (CSIR) teams as a relevant concern, if such arrangements are not already in place. The existence of a CSIR team will be a prerequisite for any facility seeking to obtain civil nuclear cyber insurance. Preventing attacks such as those involving phishing and ransomware requires good cyber hygiene practices throughout the workforce. Reducing an organization’s ‘time to recovery’ takes training and dedication. Practising the necessary tasks in crisis simulations greatly reduces the likelihood of friction and the potential for error in a crisis.

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