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Operational Technologies and Cybersecurity
Technology - Aug 21, 2020
Operational technology comprises of the hardware and software which controls the industrial processes. These processes include the critical systems which are responsible for functions such as energy and food production, water treatment etc. Any cybersecurity breach into these systems can be hazardous to the industrial operational efficiency, lead to power outages, environmental desecration and even human deaths.
It is imperative to have a specific cybersecurity strategy to handle OT processes. In this blog, we will look at the key areas of OT, understand its importance and lay a map to design and develop the OT cybersecurity strategy.
IT & OT convergence
OT has long been treated separately from IT and as time passed, the cybersecurity spending for IT increased whereas OT lagged behind, creating a vacuum which exposed industries to serious vulnerabilities. The heavy dependence on OT devices does not allow any downtime, thus many of OT devices are not timely being updated or patched making these systems more prone to attacks.
The situation now has changed. Systems are now interdependent and integrated with one another. This has been made possible by digital transformation and adoption of new technologies like Industrial IoT. This has shifted the focus back to OT as the OT functions can be targeted via the established IT networks and the inter connectivity.
OT security is becoming a priority for industrial organizations and the reasons, as stated above is the interdependence and interconnected systems. Technologies such as IoT, SCADA and smart sensors have enhanced industrial efficiency and productivity, but they have also exposed the OT to vulnerabilities. This brings us to an urgent need to encompass OT processes with industrial, asset-intensive environments over a secure network which is powered by dedicated cybersecurity services.
Challenges to OT security
a. Air gap: OT systems are generally separated from IT systems by an air gap. It is important to regularly audit and scan these air gaps to ensure connectivity.
b. Trainings: There is a serious lack of training in Industries as employees are not given adequate knowledge to maintain good OT security practices.
c. Recovery planning and Incident response: Industries often fail to document recovery and backup methods. This also leads to poor incident response in case of outages.
d. Network segmentation: Industries need to utilize the zone and conduit concepts when dealing with OT security. They can limit the incidents by controlling the access to specific zones.
e. Lack of awareness: There is a lack of awareness about the OT security vulnerabilities. This is the reason; companies are not ready to invest to protect their OT systems and production devices.
Components of OT security strategy
A comprehensive OT security strategy starts with a thorough assessment of cyber risks pertaining to vulnerable devices, security practices and firewall measures.
This assessment consists of three major steps:
Collection: - This step incorporates methods (automated or manual) to collate network data and identify vulnerable devices, including network parameters.
Analysis: The next step includes analyzing the collated data to establish an OT network framework which would adhere to industry standards.
Projection: The last step of assessment includes real time alerts which would address all operational issues in a short turnover time.
The next key step involves risk assessment which includes documenting asset information such as device(s) manufacturers, firmware’s etc. in order to identify the possible vulnerabilities. This step also includes formulating possible recovery plans against critical threats.
Policy and Procedure audit is the next step which involves reviewing and auditing OT cybersecurity policies. Then comes network segmentation and remote access which incorporates design and deployment of proper segmentation by leveraging technologies such as IDN, HIP etc.
Last step of an OT security strategy includes measuring and accessing the current OT cybersecurity state and comparing the figures with previous audits. This also comprise of establishing audit and review cycles for network sites.
Best Operational Technology Cybersecurity Practices
Industries should consider the following operational Technologies best practices with respect to Cybersecurity.
1) It is important to maintain an accurate inventory of control system devices. In addition, these devices should not be exposed to external networks.
2) Network segmentation and firewalls should be put in place.
3) Industries should use role based remote access methods with proper password practices
4) Awareness regarding threats should be channeled. Industries should regularly update their cybersecurity system with necessary packages and updates.
5) A clear policy on mobile devices should be established and enforced.
6) Industries should implement a thorough employee cybersecurity training program and update it regularly. This way employees will be updated with evolving threats.
7) Establish a comprehensive cybersecurity incident response plan.
ISSQUARED’s Cybersecurity offerings
ISSQUARED Inc. is one of the fastest growing IT infrastructure, cybersecurity and managed services firm. ISSQUARED can build you a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy which is designed to safeguard your IT and OT system against any potential breaches. The set of cybersecurity solutions include:
• Network security
• Endpoint security
• Cloud security
• Data security
• Security Intelligence
• Vulnerability management
• Business continuity
The above listed cybersecurity solutions include domains such as identity management, virtualization and cloud security, end point protection and vulnerability testing. OT is a new cybersecurity domain and our experts guide you in every step of the way as we access the threats and build you a comprehensive solution. In addition, we offer round the clock support to answer and resolve any issues.
To explore the full suite of ISSQUARED’s cybersecurity offerings, please click on the link here. For any query, please reach out one of our experts. We would be delighted to showcase our services. You can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at +1 (805) 480-9300.
Operational Technologies (OT) are integrating into the larger IT landscape and this is making them vulnerable to cybersecurity risks. Modern technologies like sensor technology (IIOT), robotics is fueling rapid digital transformation in the field of Operational technologies and leaders should establish a proper protocol which would ensure total protection of OT systems against any cyber threats. The major steps include assessment, analysis, devising a concrete plan followed by regular audits. Organizations can consider the best practices listed in the blog while formulating their OT cybersecurity plans.