OT security insights
- OT must embrace the processes and protocols that IT put in place more than 20 years ago for enterprise networks.
- As we venture into the future of interconnected systems, companies with OT/ICS must adopt a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity. One tool won’t do the trick.
- Drawing inspiration from IT’s past is not about reliving history, but learning from it and adapting best practices for the industrial OT environment.
The rapid convergence of operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) has seen industrial control systems (ICS) become increasingly interwoven within enterprise networks. As the lines blur between these traditionally separate domains, a critical question arises: How do IT and OT work together effectively to bolster the cybersecurity defenses of OT environments?
The answer, it seems, lies in the past. More than two decades ago, IT professionals established processes and protocols for securing enterprise networks. This is not just a historical anecdote. It’s a blueprint for action. OT must embrace the processes and protocols that IT put in place more than 20 years ago for enterprise networks.
Leveraging IT practices in OT environments
Inspired by time-tested IT practices, here’s a step-by-step guide tailored for the OT environment.
- Start Creating Security Zones: Security zones are distinct segments of a network, separated based on factors like function, data sensitivity and associated risk. By compartmentalizing a network, potential breaches can be confined, preventing them from spreading across the entire infrastructure. To achieve this, map out your network architecture and introduce firewalls between zones, ensuring encrypted and monitored data transmissions across boundaries.
- Establish Zero-Trust Relationships: The zero-trust model operates on the premise that no access request, regardless of its origin, is above suspicion. Traditional models often overlooked insider threats, but with zero trust, every request is authenticated and authorized. Technologies such as multifactor authentication, identity and access management, and micro-segmentation can bolster this approach, ensuring a robust defense against both internal and external threats.
- Complete an Asset Inventory: A thorough asset inventory ensures awareness of every component in your OT environment, eliminating security blind spots. Automated asset discovery tools can help in compiling this inventory, which should be updated regularly. By knowing and monitoring each asset, from primary servers to peripheral sensors, you can craft specific security measures for each, ensuring a comprehensive defense mechanism.
- Implement Vulnerability Identification, Alerts and Management Systems: The cyber threat landscape is dynamic, with new vulnerabilities emerging constantly. Passive collection and real-time alerts are imperative for identifying and addressing potential weaknesses before they can be exploited. By deploying vulnerability assessment tools tailored for OT and having a responsive team or protocol for emerging threats, organizations can stay one step ahead of potential attackers.
- Embrace Process Integrity: In an OT environment, the integrity of processes is paramount. Any deviation or unauthorized alteration can hint at a potential cyber threat or system malfunction. To ensure processes function as intended, they should be regularly validated and tested. Employing cryptographic signatures and intrusion detection systems can further protect the environment against tampering.
- Implement Audited Change Control Measures: Changes, whether in software, hardware or configurations, can introduce unforeseen vulnerabilities. A rigorous change management protocol is essential, ensuring that each change is documented, reviewed and audited. Such measures not only maintain the system’s integrity but also provide a trail for any necessary retrospectives or investigations.
- Design With Cybersecurity at the Forefront: Machine builders must shift their approach to proactively incorporate cybersecurity features such as SenseR Ready Panels into the foundational design of machine centers. Prioritizing cybersecurity from the outset is the cornerstone of a cyber-ready, resilient system.
Creating a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity
One assigned resource does not constitute a ‘cybersecurity practice.’ As we venture into the future of interconnected systems, companies with OT/ICS must adopt a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity. It’s not just about purchasing a singular tool. It’s about weaving together multiple strategies, systems and practices.
Knowledgeable and skilled cybersecurity talent shortages combined with escalating cyber events require creative problem solving. Leveraging an experienced partner with dedicated OT digital safety specialists can make all the difference in establishing a resilient cybersecurity posture to protect your organization from nefarious actors.
Drawing inspiration from IT’s past is not about reliving history, but learning from it and adapting best practices for the industrial OT environment. By adapting and evolving the processes that IT laid down decades ago, OT can craft a secure path forward in our increasingly connected world.