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Cyber crime threatening mining safety: How to stay protected

Johannesburg, 16 May 2024
Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO, ESET Southern Africa.
Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO, ESET Southern Africa.

When most people think of cyber crime victims, they imagine an office setting with desk-bound employees at computers. However, the reality is that with our increasing dependence on interconnected technologies, no industry sector is immune to cyber attacks – including mining, says Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO of industry-leading IT security software company ESET Southern Africa.

In fact, a 2022 survey by Ernst & Young found that 71% of respondents in the mining sector had seen an increase in the number of disruptive attacks in the year leading up to the survey.

“Leading mining companies in southern Africa are actively implementing digital transformation projects, and the technology used is becoming more complicated. With connected technology used for production and extraction, the threats these companies face are in some ways even more serious than those in office-based industries because they impact health and safety,” says Van Vlaanderen.

With automated machinery and processes such as self-driving hauling trucks and underground ventilation systems becoming more prevalent, it’s easy to see why a network shutdown could be extremely dangerous.

“Cyber crime vulnerabilities must be effectively monitored and mitigated, otherwise mining organisations and employees are left significantly exposed.”

Here are five crucial strategies for the mining industry to safeguard themselves against cyber threats:

People first

With almost 88% of data breaches due to human error, regular employee training and cyber security awareness is a crucial element of any cyber security strategy, says Van Vlaanderen. “Employees should be reminded on an ongoing basis of the risks that are out there and the impact that it can have on them and the business. Humans are prone to mistakes, but these mistakes, ranging from failure to properly delete data from devices to clicking on links in phishing e-mails, are also preventable.”

Top to bottom

As cyber attacks grow in frequency and complexity, all aspects of the mining value chain are vulnerable. From basics such as implementing password managers and using multi-factor authentication to using cutting-edge security technology to withstand an attack on data and intellectual property, every aspect of the business deserves equal attention, says Van Vlaanderen.

“Even the smallest gateway can be used to gain access to sensitive data or intellectual property. Make sure every entry point is protected.”

Budget strategy

In any industry, the emphasis is on spending the minimum to maximise profits. This unfortunately sometimes means that companies take the risk of only installing the minimum cyber protection they hope will be necessary – and that’s a dangerous position to take. Can your business really afford to go offline for days because your simple anti-virus didn’t do the job? What about the health and safety risks should machinery or operations suddenly come to a halt?

“When it comes to cyber security, business leaders in the mining industry need to reframe their cyber security approach to one of risk management and risk tolerance,” warns Van Vlaanderen.

As within, so without

Mining companies often do comprehensive background checks to verify the credibility of suppliers and ensure compliance. The same should be done to secure against cyber crime, says Van Vlaanderen. “Machinery provided or maintained by a third party, for example, may allow remote access for maintenance – and a novel attack path for criminals. Ensure that you’re not unintentionally left exposed by gaining a clear understanding of such policies and processes.”

Do your homework

The Ernst & Young survey also found that 55% of mining and metals executives were worried about their ability to manage a threat. “Mining companies need to be highly attuned to the constantly evolving threat landscape and adapt their defences accordingly,” says Van Vlaanderen. “If you’re unsure of your ability to stay ahead of new cyber security trends, use a trusted partner who does so. ESET, for example, relies on R&D centres worldwide to ensure protection against the latest developments, and our enterprise solutions are backed by 30 years’ industry-leading experience.”

As one of the top 10 mining countries in the world, the mining industry is vital to South Africa’s economy and clearly requires the utmost protection from cyber attacks. “Don’t wait until it’s too late,” concludes Van Vlaanderen. “Ensure your company is protected from every angle so that it can continue to be a part of this country’s proud mining legacy.”

ITWeb Security Summit 2024

ESET Southern Africa is a proud sponsor of the annual ITWeb Security Summit taking place from 4-6 June 2024 at the Sandton Convention Centre. With leading industry speakers and dedicated specialist events over two days, the summit will delve into the latest cyber threats facing African CISOs, CIOs, security specialists and risk officers. The summit is a landmark event for information security professionals and will cover the latest emerging cyber security strategies, the techniques and solutions businesses need to protect their data and systems, as well as how best to ensure compliance and upskill cyber security teams. Register at to secure your seat today! #ITWebSS2024 #cybersecurity #infosec