October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. In partnership with the National Cyber Security Alliance, Raytheon cybersecurity experts highlight the importance of securing our critical infrastructure.

The U.S. elections systems are not the only form of critical infrastructure at risk from cyberattack. From the national power grid to our transportation and agricultural systems, a host of systems and networks must be secured and protected.

One hundred percent security is nearly impossible, but Raytheon experts believe there is an effective approach to infrastructure cybersecurity. Call it “the three C’s” — communication, collaboration and creativity. By employing those principles, we can defend our critical infrastructure by making it more resilient and better equipped to respond to attacks.

“The motivations behind these intrusions into our critical infrastructure are often misinterpreted,” said Michael Daly, Raytheon chief technology officer for cybersecurity. “If we are to be successful in defending our most critical assets, we need to make sure everyone is aware of what is actually at stake.”

It's not likely that an attack would create wide-scale chaos, like shutting down the power grid, disrupting mass transit systems, according to Daly. If hackers could infect relatively few computers, they could prevent an effective emergency response in the midst of a crisis, or otherwise sow seeds of doubt about the legitimacy of these systems.

“Hacker motivations usually aren’t complicated,” said Mark Orlando, Raytheon chief technology officer for cyber protection solutions. “They are working for money or are under directive. Getting access to critical systems and causing a catastrophic event is really counterproductive. It is more lucrative and advantageous for attackers to gain access and keep access.”

Malicious actors will certainly infiltrate elements of critical systems, according to Raytheon experts, but how we handle those intrusions will make or break the functionality of our nation’s most critical services.

“Securing our critical infrastructure means focusing on fundamentals, like visibility and continuously improving,” said Orlando.

Here’s how communication, collaboration and creativity can help batten down critical infrastructure, according to Orlando:

Communication – Many critical infrastructure sectors are segmented into a hodgepodge of different organizations, operations and networks. Some rely on IT departments or equipment operators, while others have dedicated security teams.

“The biggest challenge is getting these teams to talk to each other and communicate when something doesn’t seem quite right,” said Orlando. If teams don’t communicate what they are seeing and experiencing across the system and/or network, attackers could go unnoticed for months, or even years.

Collaboration – Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility among the Defense Department, DHS, federal agencies and the corporate world. Better coordination between the public and private sectors will help identify, mitigate and respond to cyber threats.

“When we say public-private partnerships, we are talking about a powerful community of interested parties that are empowered to collaborate on solutions to our most challenging cyber problems,” Orlando said.

Creativity – Defense against targeted attacks requires a combination of creativity and well-coordinated capabilities spanning across people, process and technology. Compromise can happen in minutes, considering the sophistication of some attackers.

Effective security teams encourage their talent to creatively and proactively search through networks or data sets to respond to cyberthreats that evade traditional rule- or signature-based security controls. The powerful combination of threat intelligence, analytics and automated security tools with human intelligence, experience and skills consistently succeed.