Renewables, climate change and cybersecurity strategies

Climate change and the fossil to renewable energy transformations are having serious impacts on critical digital infrastructures and IT networks plus their cybersecurity. There are also several parallels between climate-related threats on the world with cybersecurity. In good advanced digital systems, the computer

Renewable digital transformation & management 173 servers, routers, firewalls or other digital systems are sitting at the outermost edge, or perimeter, of a protected computer network. These cyber devices should form a boundary between the vulnerable internal resources and outside networks. In many cases, hackers would often attempt to breach these digital devices’ sitting on the perimeter of advanced digital IT systems. A good example is that strong cyber attacks at the web application layer could bypass the digital perimeter security systems which would normally include system network firewalls plus IT server, router security systems, etc. These cyber attacks could then bypass the traditional, basic one-dimensional and perimeter-focused cybersecurity strategies being applied by many companies.

These cybersecurity situations arc similar to various serious climate change and global warming threats to various cities and countries, which could be multifaceted and multidirectional. By drawing connections between how climate change creates threats to critical computer infrastructure and how hackers threaten cybersecurity plus companies’ data, we could provide more insight into the effective prevention and detection of cyber attacks plus generate appropriate responses to cybersecurity and climate change threats. These could help to develop new approaches to address the multidirectional attacks on cybersecurity systems and the climate-related multi-channel threats to critical infrastructure around the world (Techtarget, Climate change threats, 2018).

A common cybersecurity problem would involve illegal cyber attack actions attempting to overload computer systems by putting much more data onto a digital buffer than it could normally handle. A computer buffer has normally a small amount of memory that would be used to temporarily hold data awaiting to be processed. When this buffer is inundated with data, it could result in a computer failure condition normally referred to as buffer overflow. These could pose serious security threats because writing data outside the buffer or allocated memory could corrupt IT data, cause computer program crashes or allow the execution of malicious code created by a hacker. The Open Web Application Security Project has recommended that the top cybersecurity strategies to avoid buffer overflow would include fully patching web and application servers plus following bug reports on applications that support the code being used. When a computer system gets overloaded with so much externally generated requests, which have been generated by hackers or attack groups, to a point where it would cause problems in its ability to provide its specific service, it becomes a computer denial-of-service (DoS) attack. These dcnial-of-service attacks are typically accomplished by flooding the targeted digital IT computer systems with numerous superfluous requests which would overload the digital IT systems so as to prevent them performing some or all of other legitimate requests for computer services. When a computer system is overwhelmed with an influx of various packets, generated by hackers, that occupy the maximum number of connections, the target IT system’s resources would be depleted and its connection bandwidths would be weakened.

An analogous climate change situation would be the rising frequency of climate-induced heavy rainfalls which could then lead to heavy stormwater surges and floodings. These extreme storm water surges and flooding incidents have often caused major disruptions in cities, resulting in serious property damages.

Floodings in cities caused by excessive storm water and rainfalls are analogous to computer systems that have been over-inundated with excessive data generated by hackers. Drainage and sewer systems would experience something similar to DoS attacks when confronted with the heavy floodings caused by climate-induced extreme heavy rainfall incidents.

Both computer systems and sewers would suffer; even if the service of the system is not fully denied to legitimate users, there will be a slowing or “degradation of service.” These would result in compromised or corrupted access, lower efficiency and poorer performance of the flooded systems.

Cybersecurity strategies to prevent DoS attacks would typically involve the use of a combination of digital detection and IT response tools that would block web traffics that have been identified as illegitimate. However, these advanced cyber tools must also be configured to allow normal legitimate IT traffics to go through. This might be difficult as hackers would often use advanced attack systems to confuse these detection tools.

Similarly in city climate change protection systems, they should use flood detection and water response tools that would identify and block sewage traffic from mixing with storm water traffics, so as to prevent combined sewer overflows (CSOs). These could help to reduce the occurrence of wide spread floods. These advanced systems should benefit cities and communities which have frequent flooding problems caused by excessful climate-induced storm water.

It is interesting to note that similar approaches could be used in cybersecurity for the identification and diversion of illegitimate traffic as in climate change for detection of storm surges and flooding. The approaches for detection and handling of legitimate traffics in cybersecurity have many similarities to handling of storm water and sewages to segregate water flows to reduce flooding in cities. These are good examples of a useful environmental application of a commonly used DoS cybersecurity strategy.

So in summary, buffer overflow is probably the best-known form of software vulnerability in cybersecurity. As discussed, a buffer overflow condition could occur when external programs used by hackers attempt to put more data in a buffer than it could handle. It would then lead to corrupted data, program crashes or extreme cyber attacks allowing the execution of malicious codes from hackers which could lead to serious cyber damages.

Similarly, climate-induced extreme heavy rainfall incidents could lead to storm water surges and floodings when the combined sewer overflows (CSOs) involve the mixing of excess inputs that compromise the system at large. A CSO is caused by storm water surges that enter sewer systems, mix with sewage and overflow into rivers and cities. These would compromise the integrity of the drainage systems in cities and pose serious flood risks with threats on water quality, sanitation and infrastructure. These serious consequences of climate-induced

Renewable digital transformation & management 175 floodings would mirror a denial-of-service cybersecurity attack which will lead to serious impairment of services.

New approaches to prevent overflows to both computer and sewer systems could be approached in similar ways. Advanced digital cybersecurity denial-of-service prevention tools could consist of front-end detection hardware placed in the network before traffic reaches the servers. It could be used on networks in conjunction with IT routers and switches. These front-end cybersecurity detection hardware devices would analyse data packets as they enter the system, and then identify them as priority, regular or dangerous.

Similar advanced digital detection systems could be developed and used in city sewage systems to detect and segregate storm water drainages and sewer flows. These could involve smart intelligent channels or sump basins that would help to manage climate-induced storm water run-offs while diverting other traffics like sewage and polluted outflows.

Both approaches would adopt analogous approaches to remediate and mitigate against similar situations like the DoS cybersecurity attacks. These new approaches would involve apply new in-depth, multilayered defence strategy incorporating three different phases which comprise readiness, reaction and resolution. For both cybersecurity and climate change mitigations, the application of advanced digital detection and preventative technologies should help to pre-emptively detect possible surges and attacks. It would help to better position IT systems and cities on improved handling of these overflows and eliminating the excessive inputs/attacks. These would help digital systems and cities to recover quicker from attacks and restoring faculties to effectively perform their intended functions.

Renewables, climate change, digital cybersecurity

way forwards

Digital transformation and cybersecurity are both important strategic elements for sustainable future growth of many companies globally in light of climate change and the renewable transformations. Companies have to develop appropriate digital transformation strategies to improve performance and efficiency whilst taking account of the climate change impacts.

Cybersecurity improvements are key to protecting companies against growing cyber attacks and risks of fraud. There should be strong management support for elimination of legacy systems which are often energy inefficient and not in line with new climate change requirements. Management should also implement organisational reforms to accelerate digital transformations and improve cybersecurity for companies in both emerging economies and developed countries globally.

Successful digital transformations would involve companies having to make major changes to corporate systems, workflows, business rules, organisations and roles. Management has to develop clear digital visions and digital transformation strategies as part of its overall corporate strategy and priorities.

Corporate management should be fully committed to executing these strategies and eliminating legacy systems. These may involve painful organisational reforms and role changes for many staff. However, companies which have successfully embrace digital transformations should have real competitive edges over their peers particularly in light of the serious climate change impacts. In addition, these should help to improve corporate efficiency, transparency and governance. These will support companies being better able to cope with climate change and the renewable transformation requirements. These should help companies to better achieve sustainable performances with continuous developments and growths.

A good international business digital transformation example is Netflix which has successfully shifted from DVDs to online streaming as part of its digital transformation strategies. This shifting has enabled it to improve its business performances and global growths. Other good retail business examples include eBay and Alibaba which have created the world’s biggest retail channels without buying any inventory as part of digital commerce strategies.

Cybersecurity is an important management priority for successful companies especially those in the energy sector which are also most likely to be affected by global warming and climate change. Companies with successful cybersecurity strategies should prioritise corporate resources to protect areas which are most valuable. They should also proactively implement cybersecurity practices that would protect their business against attacks.

In addition, companies in emerging economies and developed countries globally should actively engage with relevant government policy makers and regulators to form effective public-private partnerships (PPP) on digital transformation and cybersecurity plus climate change and fossil to renewable transformations. It would enable good sharing of best practices and knowledges plus promote digital transformation and cybersecurity improvements.

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