What is OT Cyber security?

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What is OT Cyber Security?

What is OT Cyber Security? While IT systems cater to various user needs, devices, and tasks, OT systems are specifically tailored for industrial automation, resulting in significant differences in their security approaches.

What Is Ot Cyber Security

One significant challenge arises from the disparity in technology life cycles, a key aspect of understanding What is OT Security. OT systems often endure for decades, contrasting sharply with the typical four-to-six-year life cycles of IT systems like laptops and servers. Consequently, OT security measures must frequently contend with outdated infrastructure, which may prove difficult or impossible to patch.

Furthermore, many OT systems operate under stringent regulatory frameworks. For instance, regulatory bodies like the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandate that manufacturers of diagnostic equipment support their products for up to 20 years post-deployment. Additionally, OT systems typically fall under the purview of business units, with procurement, management, and security responsibilities lying outside the realm of CIOs and CISOs.

Despite these differences, both IT and OT security share a commonality, a crucial aspect when considering What is OT Security: an increasing reliance on internet or public network connectivity.

Why is OT cyber security important?

In the past, OT assets operated in isolation from the internet, shielding them from web-based threats like malware, ransomware attacks, and malicious hackers. However, with the advent of digital transformation initiatives and the convergence of IT and OT, organizations began integrating point solutions into their infrastructure to tackle specific challenges such as patching. Unfortunately, this piecemeal approach resulted in intricate networks where systems operated in silos, lacking comprehensive visibility for those overseeing them, underscoring the importance of understanding What is OT Security.

Industrial Control Systems (ICS) form the backbone of operations and revenue generation in many industries. The compromise of vital industrial systems like Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, Distributed Control Systems (DCS), and various custom applications can wreak havoc on an organization, posing significant risks and making them prime targets for cyberattacks. Therefore, ensuring robust OT cybersecurity measures is imperative to safeguarding critical industrial processes and maintaining business continuity.

IT and OT integration

Operational Technology Security In Cybersecurity

IT and OT networks commonly operate as separate entities, lacking the capability to comprehensively monitor activities across an organization’s ecosystem. Typically, OT network teams report to the Chief Operating Officer (COO), while IT network teams report to the Chief Information Officer (CIO). This division results in each team safeguarding only a portion of the total ecosystem, leading to redundant security measures and fragmented threat management efforts. Consequently, protecting the organization from cyberthreats becomes significantly more challenging, highlighting the importance of understanding What is OT Security.

Securing OT in Operational Settings

Securing Ot In Operational Settings

Operational Technology (OT) systems encompass a wide array of devices such as sensors, monitors, actuators, generators, industrial robots, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), and remote processing units (RPUs), many of which are integral components of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). With OT devices often interfacing with hazardous machinery, prioritizing their security is paramount to safeguarding human safety, particularly as the associated cyber risks continue to escalate. According to Gartner, the looming threat is such that cybercriminals may potentially exploit OT environments to cause physical harm to individuals by 2025, emphasizing the necessity of understanding What is OT Security.

OT Security Best Practices

Operational technologies encompass a diverse range of systems, each demanding tailored security measures. However, certain overarching steps constitute essential elements of any robust OT security strategy:

  1. Map Your Environment: Ensure your team can promptly identify the digital footprint of all devices within your network. Real-time mapping enhances understanding of your attack surface and facilitates swift issue resolution.

  2. Continuous Monitoring: Vigilantly monitor your entire ecosystem for any signs of suspicious activity. Prompt detection of unusual behavior, including vendor and service provider traffic, is crucial for mitigating security risks and upholding a resilient security posture.

  3. Adopt a Zero Trust Framework: Embrace a zero-trust approach that treats every device, user, or network as a potential threat until authenticated. Incorporate multifactor authentication and robust vulnerability management as foundational components.

  4. Implement Application-Level Microsegmentation: Deploy microsegmentation at the application level to prevent unauthorized access attempts, thwarting malicious insiders and preserving data integrity.

  5. Identity and Access Management (IAM): Prioritize identity management and access controls, especially within OT environments where breaches can have severe physical repercussions. IAM measures are critical for ensuring operational safety and protecting against unauthorized access.

  6. Employee Education: Educate your workforce on prevalent threats and potential attack vectors to enhance their awareness and responsiveness. Empowering employees to recognize and respond to security risks significantly bolsters overall defense capabilities.

Zero Trust OT Security

Employing a zero trust approach stands as the pinnacle of ensuring resilient OT security, offering adaptive, context-based application access independent of network accessibility. Through a well-designed zero trust architecture, every user—be it an employee, contractor, or third party—gains access solely to the applications and systems essential for their roles. This streamlined access is achieved without reliance on intricate firewall configurations or VPN setups, all the while ensuring that your applications and network remain concealed from the broader internet landscape, highlighting the importance of understanding What is OT Security.

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