The Importance Of Securing OT Platforms

Operational Technology (OT) is hardware and software that detects or causes a change, through the direct monitoring and/or control of industrial equipment, assets, processes and events. Now, Industry 4.0 is introducing a higher level of automation and data exchange into the industrial manufacturing process.

But Industry 4.0 also introduces more risk for OT systems, which now require more investment in cyber security.

OT systems can be required to control valves, engines, conveyors and other machines to regulate various process values, such as temperature, pressure, flow, and to monitor them to prevent hazardous conditions. Furthermore, OT systems use various technologies for hardware design and communications protocols, that are unknown in IT.

Common problems include supporting legacy systems & devices and numerous vendor architectures and standards.

The cyber threats are varied. For example, digital twin infrastructure, using a digital copy of a production facility or machine. The digital twin enables the simulation of the system’s operation in order to optimise the environment based on that simulation. 

Another example is predictive maintenance, the collection of data from a machine, so that if the behaviour of the machine of abrasions, temperatures, or whatever else is changing, you do maintenance windows before your machine gets broken. In order to operate these functions, organisations have to make changes to their technology. This requires more devices, and the collection of more data requires, in turn, the use of cloud services. 

All this introduces more cyber risk and more complexity and organisations should mitigate the vulnerabilities and cyber risks. Recommended actions include: 

  • Set up  a full inventory of hardware and software, enabling users  monitor the lifecycles of devices, integrate it into the Enterprise Resource Planning system (ERP) and optimise maintenance.
  • Restrict unauthorised access and block unknown, unwanted activity on your OT network.
  • Watch what’s happening within your network  and what specific communications are taking place between devices.
  • Protect unpatched legacy systems instead of waiting until they are upgraded, whilst using a proactive platform that deals with cyber threats before they can cause any damage.
  • Establish key objectives and ensure that a centralised figure holds oversight of all security policies. 
  • To bring everyone up to speed, you need to provide training for all members of staff. This should incorporate the IT and OT teams understanding  each other’s work. With better education, issues like staff accidentally introducing viruses to the network through infected removable media can be managed and reduced.   

An integrated security network which values collaboration, analytics, good cyber hygiene practices and data-backed decision-making is far better placed to monitor alerts and respond to evolving cyber security threats.  

Tenable:    Gartner:    MissionSecure:    I-HLS:     Fortinet:      Solutionspt:   

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