Why Your Railway Cybersecurity Strategy Must Go Beyond Threat Detection

Cervello Team
November 22, 2021
Sunset on full train station

Having the ability to quickly identify suspicious activity or a breach is essential to remediation—but it’s not the end-all.
To build a meaningful railway cybersecurity strategy, you also need the ability to investigate an attack in real-time and assess its potential operational impact. For railways, in which operational continuity and safety go hand-in-hand, this is crucial.

Where did the breach occur, and what’s the attacker’s potential path deeper into your internal systems? Which connected operational, mission-critical assets are now at risk? What actions do railway operators and infrastructure managers need to take to quickly mitigate damage, ensure business continuity, and keep passengers safe?

Without clear visibility into the entire railway ecosystem and real-time threat investigation, it’s impossible to understand the severity of an attack, its potential impacts on operations and safety, or how to adequately resolve it.

Context awareness lays the foundation for threat detection and resolution

To obtain the required visibility, you need a holistic view of the entire railway system infrastructure. Gaining a robust contextual scene of the railway infrastructure is an important—but often overlooked—a prerequisite to threat detection, investigation, and remediation.

Having a contextual scene entails continuous mapping and segmenting of the entire signaling and operational environment according to their physical locations or predefined security zones. It also includes knowing the exact operational responsibilities of each asset and its operational dependencies and connectivities. This view allows infrastructure managers and railway operators to quickly and accurately understand the operational impact of an attack, as well as visualize the potential attack vectors.

For an extraordinarily complex and interconnected railway infrastructure—including signaling and interlocking systems, telecommunications, rolling stock, and more—this is essential.

Cervello’s rail cybersecurity solution provides the context and visibility stakeholders need to respond to threats. Our fully passive and non-intrusive solution provides in-depth visualization of the entire operational environment, including connectivities and operational dependencies, to enable instant threat detection and isolation. It enables complete asset inventory and network mapping to identify every connected asset within each security zone, as well as a map of all stations.

Real-time investigation and deep forensics deliver the ‘how’ and ‘why’

After you’ve detected a threat and identified it within the larger context of the railway system infrastructure, the next step is to isolate and investigate it. This is where the weaknesses of generic cybersecurity solutions become evident.

Every cyberattack is different—from the type of the attack and its vector to the affected assets the attack aims to harm. Only a railway-centered solution can understand how and why an attack happened with the level of detail and accuracy needed. That, combined with deep knowledge of the operational role of each asset and its connectivities, makes it uniquely capable of responding to railway cybersecurity events.

Cervello enables railway operators and infrastructure managers to isolate and investigate threats the moment they are detected. It replaces the traditional perimeter defense model with a zero-trust, yet fully passive and non-intrusive framework to contain threats and prevent potentially malicious actors from gaining lateral access or advanced privileges in your internal system.

At the same time, Cervello performs real-time investigation, including a complete analysis of event logs. Because event logs record every event that occurs in the railway OT environment, they are fundamental to identifying intruders, malware, or other suspicious activity related to an attack.

Deep forensic capabilities backed by event logs help you understand the scope and scale of an attack so you can respond appropriately and keep business running smoothly.

To make things crystal clear, Cervello’s Incident Scoring System informs stakeholders how to prioritize their response to suspicious activity by determining their severity level. This information is invaluable to CSOCs and SIEMs, who now have the ability to focus on the critical issues that matter most while improving their decision-making process.

Without visualization and forensics, your railway cybersecurity strategy is incomplete

The next cyberattack is not a matter of if, but when. Yet not every attack is the same. Therefore, those tasked with responding to suspicious activity need to be prepared to tailor their response. The only way to do so is with the right knowledge, visibility, and forensics.

Unless you have the ability to visualize your infrastructure, networks, and systems, it’s impossible to determine the potential operational impacts of an attack. And, without a full investigative report, choosing the right mitigation response is like throwing darts in the dark.

Subsequently, railway operators and infrastructure managers lack the information required to prevent further damage, prevent operational disruption, or keep passengers safe.

Cervello’s railway cybersecurity platform empowers those responsible for responding to cybersecurity attacks by arming them with the knowledge, insights, and remediation guidance they need to keep operations running safely.