Organisations and businesses in food and beverages, manufacturing, mining, petrochemical and other industrial processes focus on OT or operational technology security.
Many kinds of cyber attacks can damage the OT assets of organisations. There have been reports of breaches in the water treatment service or facilities in Israel and the USA.
Not just this, as per the Data Breach Report by IBM, the cost of a breach in the industrial sector is $4.24 million, and in the energy sector, it is $4.65 million.
Considering this, OT security can not be overlooked in any way. However, before getting on that, we need first to understand the OT network and then how to provide OT cybersecurity.
What is Meant by Operational Technology?
Operational Technology is a combination of software and hardware systems that helps in monitoring, controlling and executing various industrial operations. Because of the OT infrastructure, various industrial processes such as traffic control systems, manufacturing plants and more were carried out.
Under Operational Technology, many processes or frameworks such as physical access control, distributed control systems, safety instrumented systems and more take place.
What is Operational Technology Security?
OT security uses technologies and practices to protect assets, information, devices and more that are employed in the OT system.
It is the use of hardware and software that can detect, monitor and control any changes or variations in processes, events and devices in the industrial system. This type of cybersecurity is critical to networks employed in transportation networks, power stations and more.
The purpose of OT security is to protect industrial machinery. However, the OT security measures are defined by analysing the needs of the OT environment. However, sometimes OT security gets confused with IT security, so understanding the difference between both is essential.
Difference between IT and OT Security
OT also utilised many cybersecurity tools in IT environments, but the working of tools differs in both environments.
While IT security focuses on accessibility and confidentiality, OT security, on the other hand, focuses on reliability and safety. In IT breaches, hackers want valuable information and data, while in OT breaches, the purpose is physical disruption.
OT cyber breaches can impact the physical world, unlike IT environments; for instance, a hacker plants unprotected IoT-enabled equipment in a water plant without OT security in place, which can lead to the shipment of contaminated water to consumers, which can further cause health and economic consequences for those who are using the packaged water of the business.
While IT breaches usually happen for personal financial gain, it doesn't impact the physical world.
IT and OT Convergence
Earlier, there were separate networks for OT and IT, managed by separate groups in the organisation.
There weren't any interdependencies. But with time, this has changed; with the inception of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), industrial processes can be remotely monitored and can be managed from a central location, which offers organisations greater productivity and efficiency.
Not just modern OT systems are capable of exchanging data between applications and machines. There are various benefits offered by the IIOT integration in operational Technology, such as:
- Better monitoring and control
- Process automation
- Adherence to regulatory compliance
The OT environment, as a part of IIOT, employed many devices such as monitors, sensors, remote processing units and more. The usage of these devices puts OT environments at risk. That's why the need for implementing OT security measures is essential.
Components of OT Security
When discussing implementing security measures in an OT environment, we must understand that every system or device employed in OT frameworks should be protected. It should protect both the components of OT, which are:
- Industrial Control Systems - ICS is known to be the primary component of operational Technology. It uses the devices and systems that manage and control various industrial processes. It is the physical function of machinery, equipment and devices as they operate in conjunction. So, the security of ICS in OT specifies the safety of the machine and those who operate it.
- Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) - Another main component of operational Technology is SCADA, which is an informational component. The function of the SCADA is to collect data from the distributed sites and send it to the central control system. This centralised system allows the security manager to monitor the equipment, set alarms and adjust equipment settings in real-time. The security of SCADA in OT specifies keeping the whole system up and running.
Best Practices for Operational Technology (OT) Security
The use of modern technology makes the industrial system more connected but also exposes it to various cyberattacks. However, the need for OT cybersecurity varies from organisation to organisation based on the industrial requirements and security measures they need.
But below are some of the best practices for operational technology security that can be implemented in any business:
- Map OT Environment - The first security method of OT security is knowing in real time all about the devices employed in the OT framework. The security team needs to have a clear-cut idea about the physical location of devices. So, in case of an attack or breach, the security team can pinpoint the attack source.
- Continuous Monitoring of OT System - The second security method is to monitor the OT system continuously so that security managers can identify any unusual activity easily. By monitoring the devices, organisations can prevent security breaches.
- Employ Zero Trust Framework - Another great security measure is to employ a Zero Trust framework, which offers zero implicit trust to the OT framework. It means any device, user or network can be a threat to the framework, and hence, proper authentication is needed before giving access to the framework.
- Employ Application Level Segmentation - This approach involves going beyond the network segmentation. By offering microsegmentation, users can only access the resources they are allowed to use, thus preventing insider attacks and breaches. With micro-segmentation, organisations can isolate resources or assets within the network.
- Educate and Raise Awareness - Finally, organisations can learn how to better handle cyberattack issues by training employees, holding workshops, and educating the workforce about cyber risks.
Employing OT cyber security goals is to prevent security breaches and enhance business performance. Every business wants to have a solution in place that offers robust OT security to their business.
And when it comes to operational technology security, the InstaSafe zero-trust security solution is the way to go.
InstaSafe's Zero Trust solution offers top-notch security to businesses of all kinds. With our solution, the organisation's whole framework remains protected from any attack.
The least privileged access control offered by our Zero Trust solution ensures that only authenticated users can access the resources they need to do their work or job.
Further, Zero Trust approaches like ZTNA and ZTAA are adaptive, allowing for real-time risk assessment and adjustment of access privileges. This means that access permissions can be dynamically updated based on changing conditions, enhancing security.
By adopting a zero-trust approach offered by InstaSafe solutions, organisations can strengthen their security posture and minimise the risk of unauthorised access and cyber threats in their OT environments.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is CCTV an OT System?
Closed-circuit television, or CCTV, is considered a part of operation technology. It is employed for keeping an eye on and monitoring physical areas.
2. What is DCS in OT?
DCS stands for Distributed Control System in the context of Operational Technology (OT). A Distributed Control System is a type of control system used in various industrial and manufacturing processes to monitor and control a wide range of devices and processes in real time.
3. Why separate OT and IT networks?
IT networks are typically focused on data management, communication, and business processes, while OT networks are focused on real-time control and automation of physical processes.