How to support plant floor digital safety with OT managed services

Courtesy: Brett Sayles
Courtesy: Brett Sayles

The ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats poses a significant risk to businesses operating control systems critical to production, which can jeopardize both safety and operations. To build cyber and operational resilience and mitigate these risks, the concept of managed services for operational technology (OT) has emerged. This can provide continuous monitoring support and enhanced security for industrial control systems (ICS).

In the realm of information technology (IT), managed services have become commonplace, with companies outsourcing system operations functions of their IT networks. However, when it comes to OT, this level of monitoring and support has been less prevalent. In this article, we’ll delve into the importance of OT managed services and explore how organizations can ensure around-the-clock monitoring and fortified operational security.

Understanding the unique risks of OT

Businesses operating industrial equipment face unique risks and challenges when it comes to cyber threats, highlighting the crucial need for relevant security controls that can be achieved through OT managed services. The consequences of a cyber event on ICS can be severe, extending beyond financial losses to potentially compromising public safety and disrupting essential services. Malicious actors are targeting technologies with increasing sophistication in an attempt to exploit vulnerabilities and gain unauthorized access to industrial network operations.

Control systems are digital systems with physical outcomes. The interconnected nature of these systems amplifies the potential impact — a breach in one area can have cascading effects throughout the entire operation. Moreover, the evolving threat landscape demands constant vigilance, as the ongoing change of increasing connectivity, addition of new technology next to legacy devices, and new attack vectors and techniques continually emerge. By exploring the specific risks and challenges faced by businesses with production dependent on control systems, organizations can better understand the imperative of implementing comprehensive OT managed services to protect their operations and the communities they serve.

Managed services require a new stance

Industry trends and statistics strongly reinforce the growing recognition of the need for OT managed services, reflecting a significant shift in the approach to safeguarding operational technology. According to recent research from Gartner Peer Insights and Cisco, visibility into industrial network risks is a key motivating factor for tech leaders as they work toward OT network security. This relatively new way of thinking stems from a steady increase in the ways cyber threats can adversely impact ICS systems.

The growing number of automation processes and machinery, along with the rapid expansion of remote access to those systems, has opened the operation up to new risks. This surge in threats has prompted organizations to prioritize continuous monitoring and support through OT managed services. This is because organizations recognize the potential consequences of operational disruptions and the importance of safeguarding essential operations.

In an era marked by ransomware attacks and malicious hacking, organizations must be proactive in protecting their OT systems. A breach in operational security can have far-reaching consequences, including disruption to production, quality impact, materials spoilage, machinery damage and reset, and threats to environmental and human safety. Living in this state of risk is untenable, and it highlights the dangers associated with not maintaining OT security measures around the clock.

Benefits and advantages of managed services

Collaborating with specialized OT managed service providers brings a host of benefits and advantages, enabling organizations to take proactive measures against cybersecurity challenges and bolster the resilience of their critical infrastructure. By putting the security of their operational technology in the hands of experts, businesses gain access to a wealth of knowledge and experience in OT security, harnessing the latest technologies and industry best practices. This shift empowers organizations to mount a proactive defense against emerging cyber threats, reinforcing their industrial control systems and ensuring the continuous safety and efficiency of their operations.

Another key advantage of partnering with specialized OT managed service providers is the around-the-clock coverage they can offer. Unlike traditional IT managed services, OT managed services can be tailored to meet the unique needs of industrial control systems. With 24/7 monitoring and support, organizations can have peace of mind knowing that in the event of a cyber event, their operation is ready and protected. This includes times when internal resources may be limited or nonexistent, such as at night, on weekends and during holidays.

Furthermore, OT managed service providers bring specialized knowledge and experience in OT security, allowing organizations to tap into their expertise and stay ahead of evolving cyber threats. These providers are well versed in the intricacies of industrial control systems and understand the potential vulnerabilities that can be exploited. By leveraging their knowledge and leading-edge technologies, businesses can fortify their defenses and proactively identify and mitigate potential risks.

OT managed service providers can serve as a valuable extension of your team. Resources can be tight, making it challenging to allocate dedicated personnel to manage OT security. A managed service is an excellent way of improving a needed capability and building the expertise without adding to the headcount, especially when time-to-value is a concern. By leveraging a specialty service provider’s expertise, you gain access to a team of experienced professionals who specialize in OT security, alleviating the need to invest in training and build an internal team from scratch.

Digital safety and security with outside partners

Most managed service providers focus primarily on IT services and continuous monitoring for the IT world. However, when it comes to OT security, the requirements and challenges are unique. Companies need the support of an outside team with specialized expertise in OT security that understands the intricacies and unique demands of safeguarding industrial equipment.

Rather than just providing a one-size-fits-all solution, providers should work alongside their clients, acting as their trusted partner. It’s essential to work hand in hand with teams on-site so you can develop a customized strategy that aligns with the industry requirements and the specific needs at each location. The goal is to help companies bridge the knowledge gap and ensure their OT security is covered and in capable hands.

In an increasingly interconnected and digitally driven world, securing operational technology is paramount. OT managed services offer businesses the opportunity to enhance their digital safety, mitigate cyber risks and optimize their operational efficiency. By partnering with experienced experts and leveraging continuous monitoring solutions, organizations can safeguard their critical infrastructure, protect their brand and ensure uninterrupted operations, even in the face of evolving cyber threats.




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