Safeguarding the Critical Information Infrastructures though Phoeni2x framework

In today’s interconnected digital landscape, critical information infrastructures (CIIs) form the backbone of modern societies encompassing sectors like energy, finance, healthcare, transportation, and more. These infrastructures provide essentials services to the society and the continuity of their services is vital. However, the increasing dependence on digital systems especially after the digitization brought by the pandemic also exposes these CIIs to a variety of cyber threats. This is where cybersecurity preparedness steps in as a crucial shield, which will enable these infrastructures to safeguard their integrity, confidentiality, and availability.

Critical information infrastructures refer to the systems and networks that are indispensable to the functioning of a nation’s core services. These include communication systems, financial institutions, healthcare facilities, power grids and more. Currently, due to the transition to digital platforms, these sectors are becoming prime targets for cybercriminals and state sponsored hackers seeking to disrupt operations, steal sensitive data, or even cause widespread chaos.

The digital age has birthed a new era of threats, with cyber attackers employing increasingly sophisticated techniques to breach defenses. From ransomware attacks that hold entire systems hostage to nation-state actors targeting critical utilities, the threat landscape is vast and diverse. Thus, the importance of cybersecurity preparedness in critical information infrastructure is greater than ever. The new NIS2 Directive that will replace the current NIS directive sets the ground for a more resilient cybersecurity framework by extending the scope of liable entities and their obligation regarding the measures for the security of networks and information systems. The main difference between essential and important entities is in the monitoring of compliance with the rules. For the essential entities, mainly parties from vital sectors, supervision will be proactive. This means that these organizations will be actively monitored whether the legislation is being complied with. In the case of the important entities, supervision takes place afterwards, if there are indications that there is an incident. If, after an incident, it appears that the organization has not taken the required steps such as notifying the DSA as the relevant authority, these organizations may also have to deal with possible consequences of non-compliance with this legislation.

The Digital Security Authority is the authority responsible in the Republic of Cyprus for the transposition of the NIS2 Directive. At this stage, the draft of the transposing legislation has been prepared and is available for public consultation by the affected stakeholders. Once the public consultation is completed, the draft of the transposing legislation will go through the appropriate governmental agencies until it reaches the House of Representatives for voting. The NIS2 Directive will be in force in 18 October 2024. 

Due to large area of responsibility, that the new directive will entail there will be a need for the highest degree of automation in the process of protecting the CIIs. This is where the Phoeni2x framework could significantly contribute. In order to realize how the CIIs can benefit from it, the best practices for cybersecurity preparedness in CIIs must first be presented.

Best Practices for Cybersecurity Preparedness in CIIs that align with the NIS2 and Phoeni2x

  1. Risk Management and Assessment: The AI capabilities of the phoeni2x platform will be able to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to identify potential threats, vulnerabilities, and risks associated with your critical information infrastructures. This feature can help the organization to understand the exposure to cyber threats.
  2. Implement Security Measures: Based on the risk assessment, the platform will also outline the priority of each identified risk as well the things that need to be implemented to mitigate the identified risks. This can include implementing firewalls, intrusion detection systems, access controls, encryption, and other technical safeguards.
  3. Incident Detection and Response: Through the AI functionality of the platform assisted orchestration, automation and response is capable with the use of playbooks that will enable business continuity and recovery as well as incident response tailored to the need of the CII.
  4. Reporting Obligations: Reporting to the relevant authority is crucial and an obligation of the CIIs and the essential service providers as the NIS2 states. With the PHOENI2X mechanism of Alerting and Reporting, collaboration between private and public critical sector actors at the national and European level is feasible.
  5. Cooperation and Information Exchange: Collaborate with other essential service providers, digital service providers, and national competent authorities to share threat intelligence and best practices. A coordinated approach enhances the overall cybersecurity ecosystem.
  6. Personnel Training assessment: Provide cybersecurity training to the staff through Serious Games and realistic Resilience Cyber Range to ensure that employees are aware of cybersecurity best practices, recognize potential threats, and understand their roles in incident response.
  7. Continuous Monitoring and Improvement: Establish continuous monitoring mechanisms to detect and respond to emerging threats. Regularly review and update the cybersecurity measures based on changes in the threat landscape and the evolving nature of the infrastructure.

Overall, the PHOENI2X framework will be a very valuable asset in strengthening the level of readiness and resilience of the CIIs of a National Authority, since it provides all the necessary tools and technologies needed to detect, manage and recover from cybersecurity incidents to minimize their impact. The multidimensional approach of PHOENI2X that leverages AI at its core allows it to detect and respond effectively to very sophisticated attacks that continue to evolve until today. It is also being created in a time where Threat Information Exchange is vital to keep up with the latest threats and stay protected as much as possible. In addition, the wide range of its functionalities can allow the infrastructure to better comply with the obligations of the NIS2 directive. 

Author: Vangelis Photiou 

Digital Security Authority (DSA)