Securing Operational Technology

Understanding the differences in IT and OT will greatly help you improve the wellbeing of your building, your business and your people.

What is Operational Technology?

Operational Technology (OT) is the use of hardware and software to monitor and control physical processes, devices, and infrastructure. Operational technology systems are found across a large range of asset-intensive sectors, performing a wide variety of tasks ranging from monitoring critical infrastructure (CI) to controlling robots on a manufacturing floor.  OT is used in a variety of industries including manufacturing, oil and gas, electrical generation and distribution, aviation, maritime, rail, and utilities.

Traditionally, OT cyber security was not necessary because OT systems were not connected to the internet. As such, they were not exposed to outside threats. As digital innovation (DI) initiatives expanded and IT OT networks converged, organisations tended to bolt-on specific point solutions to address specific issues. These approaches to OT security resulted in a complex network where solutions could not share information and provide full visibility.

Understanding The Networks

Historically, Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) have occupied entirely separate domains and shared little or no meaningful data or control. Even though they both use IP connected equipment, IT and OT devices do not behave exactly the same on the network. They also rely on oversight from staff with distinctly different skill sets.

IT/OT silos hinder the deployment of a cybersecurity strategy capable of mitigating threats in real time. The results can be devastating with the potential to disrupt critical infrastructure, resources, and services serving communities. The 2022 Fortinet State of Operational Technology and Cybersecurity Report found that 93% of organizations had security intrusions with 61% of intrusions affecting OT systems.

Why OT Security is Critical: 3 Benefits

Securing converged OT-IT networks with a security fabric helps security leaders achieve the necessary visibility, control, and behavioural analytics they require. Since OT equipment and IIOT devices typically rely on traditional security, the network must be secured in a manner that ensures cyberthreats do not gain access to these devices. To achieve consistent, effective IT and OT security, a security fabric delivers:

1. Visibility – Discover any device attached anywhere on the IT-OT network, determine the degree of trust, and continuously monitor behaviour to maintain a level of trust. Define the attack surface and ensure active device and traffic profiling. Traffic visibility ensures actionable intelligence, and OT security teams can dictate allowed traffic, ports, protocols, applications, and services. Enforcement points within the environment ensure north-south and east-west protection.

2. Control – Depend on each OT system and subsystem to do its job—and only its job. Multifactor authentication ensures the appropriate people have the appropriate assigned permissions and access. Network segmentation and micro-segmentation provide a layered and levelled approach with zones of control. Sandboxing detects threats on the OT network and automated quarantine prevents them from doing damage.

3. Continuous Monitoring – Continuous analysis of behaviours in OT networks helps teams learn what, where, when, who, and how by gathering intelligence about known and unknown threats. A central security tool helps with logging, reporting and analytics, and evaluates activity collected across the system. It also provides security information and event management, and security orchestration automation and response capabilities. OT security insights are gained via user and device behaviour analysis and threat assessments ensure continuous protection.

Securing your OT with SecureArm

At SecureArm, we don’t work with multiple silos of IT, OT and other networks, but instead work hard to design a converged network infrastructure based on standards that serve the segmentation requirements, and protect any existing or future OT network from unwarranted traffic and exploits.

All of our purpose-built OT solutions are managed and operated via a single pane of glass.

Speak to our team

If you have a question about OT Secure Networks or would like to understand in more detail how it can benefit your business, please either give us a call on 0844 414 3007 or fill out the form below and one of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.