A shocking report published by security company McAfee reveals that more than half of critical infrastructure enterprises worldwide have fallen victim to large scale or stealth cyber attacks.
The attacks - launched by organized crime gangs, terrorists or nation-states - typically cost up to $6.3 million per day.
"In today's economic climate, it is imperative that organizations prepare for the instability that cyber attacks on critical infrastructure can cause," warned McAfee CEO Dave DeWalt.
"From public transportation, to energy to telecommunications, these are the systems we depend on every day. An attack on any of these industries could cause widespread economic disruptions, environmental disasters, loss of property and even loss of life."
DeWalt explained that the risk of cyberattack was steadily rising, with more than a third of IT executives (37%) reporting an increase in vulnerabilities over the past 12 months. As such, nearly two-fifths of those surveyed expect a major security incident in their sector within the next year.
"Many of the world's critical infrastructures were built for reliability and availability, not for security. Traditionally, these organizations have had little to no cyber protection, and have relied on guards, gates and guns," explained DeWalt.
"Today however, computer networks are interconnected with corporate IT networks and other infrastructure networks, which are accessible from anywhere in the world."
DeWalt added that the recently identified Operation Aurora was the largest and most sophisticated cyberattack aimed at specific corporations.
"But it could have just as easily targeted the world's critical infrastructure. The attack announced by Google and identified by McAfee was the most sophisticated threat seen in years making it a watershed moment in cybersecurity because of the targeted and coordinated nature of the attack."