- As hackers target OT systems, C-level executives realise the importance of protecting these environments to reduce risk in their companies, according to MSSP Alert. Industrial networks now demand OT cyber security.
- According to a poll, 90% of these firms had suffered at least one destructive cyber-attack in the preceding two years.
The primary targets of cyberattacks on IT systems were individuals, businesses, and government agencies. Operational Technology (OT) was defenseless against this assault.
The mix of hardware and software that controls and manages the physical mechanisms of the industry is operational technology (OT). The rapid digitalization of technology propels infrastructure. In addition, attacks on these systems are increasing due to the vulnerabilities created by the difficulty of controlling expanding and linked settings. Consequently, OT cybersecurity has become a necessity for industrial networks.
Why is OT security important? OT Security – despite the term’s familiarity, worldwide Storage Resource Management or SRM leaders have yet to build comprehensive OT security solutions for securing OT networks.
The global OT security market is predicted to increase from an estimated USD 15.5 billion in 2022 to USD 32.4 billion in 2027 at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 15.8% between 2022 and 2027.
What is Operational Technology Security?
Before discussing its significance, let’s review what is OT cybersecurity. OT security comprises hardware and software that detect or create a change by manipulating physical devices via direct or indirect monitoring. It is prevalent in Industrial Control Systems (ICS) such as SCADA, whose purpose is to defend these systems from attacks while managing vital infrastructure.
OT security is tailored to satisfy the particular security requirements of OT settings. This involves safeguarding system availability, understanding OT-specific protocols, and preventing attacks aimed at the legacy systems often utilized in OT contexts.
Why Is OT Security So Important?
According to Managed Security Services Providers or MSSP Alert, as OT systems become increasingly attractive to cybercriminals, C-level executives acknowledge the significance of safeguarding these environments to limit risks inside their firms. OT cybersecurity is increasingly an absolute requirement for industrial networks.
We will examine why OT cybersecurity is vital for critical infrastructure and how convergence provides more substantial protection. The majority of plants throughout the world function from machinery with insufficient security measures, and they are becoming increasingly interconnected. Herein lay the most significant security threats.
These weaknesses are ideal for hackers seeking exploits and entry points into an industrial network. Therefore, OT security is so vital that breaches can result in physical effects such as a tripped circuit breaker that causes the lights to go out.
The number of attacks that target OT settings is remarkably increasing. According to a poll, 90% of these firms had suffered at least one destructive cyberattack in the preceding two years.
50% of individuals who dealt with an event reported that the attack targeted the OT system and infrastructure of the organization, resulting in a plant or equipment outage.
Security Challenges and Solutions
The digitization of OT networks has exposed them to more frequent and sophisticated cyberattacks. A random OT Security Solutions package may not provide complete protection for an OT network. Initial evaluation of the security posture of an OT network facilitates the identification of necessary security solutions.
It is vital to handle the main OT security challenges that an OT network may encounter, but it is also crucial to distinguish between Challenges and Threats. Challenges are opponents that can be countered with the given resources. Threats are enemies that need extra help or expose the deficiency of resources in a certain domain.
Let us look into the most common challenges in OT security. Hence, we also listed the solutions that can help you to handle these challenges.
- Attrition of Network Architecture
- Lack of homogeneous ownership
- Poor visibility
- IoT Bots and DDoS attacks
- Use of removable media
- The security posture of sub-components
- Human Error
- Connecting to the cloud
- OT and IT Convergence
- Lack of awareness
Obsolete machinery and legacy OS
The antiquated hardware and older operating system further impair the OT network. While outdated machinery is directly responsible for low production, it is accountable for system incompatibility. Given that the software and protocols of each manufacturer are proprietary, it is difficult for components from various suppliers to be compatible.
In addition, there are significant cybersecurity issues. Despite the availability of several OT security providers, it is hard to secure antiquated machinery running on legacy operating systems. These obsolete equipment and systems need more flexibility and scalability to implement contemporary security standards and support modern security protocols. This infrastructure’s system failure leads to data loss and a recovery period of many hours. In addition, hefty maintenance expenses further reduce profits.
Solution: Modernization is the most practical method for eliminating the dangers associated with outmoded machinery and legacy systems. In the digital world, when cybersecurity threats are real, upgrading to new gear may significantly reduce the risk element.
By replacing default credentials with stronger passwords and unique names, dangers posed by inexperienced attackers may be eliminated. Similarly, scanning and confirming updates before upgrading, shutting ports and services that are not in use, and performing frequent network scans are required. Adopting data encryption wherever possible and utilizing a secure VPN to send data can protect conversations.
Lack of homogenous ownership
Establishing complete security ownership in a company is vital. The manager and director of Plant operations share responsibility for security, with occasional support from the executive team. While this may lessen the load, it creates weaknesses and encourages threat actors. Sharing security responsibility throughout the organizational structure makes monitoring and surveillance challenges.
Unlike IT firms, OT networks need to have well-defined security standards and ownership.
Solution: The declining trend of CISOs’ influence in security decisions should take a U-turn.
By default, the CISO should be the one to make crucial budgetary choices affecting OT security, cybersecurity, and other relevant factors. A competent CISO contributes more experience and tactical advice to discussions with OT security providers. The CISO takes vital measures to safeguard and secure the organization and instill a culture of cybersecurity in the workforce. Creating this culture at the staff level significantly impacts the enterprise’s strength.
The CISO is no longer solely responsible for safeguarding the digital perimeter of assets. It has become an autonomous risk-decision maker, a dependable facilitator, and, most crucially, a value producer.
The lack of centralized visibility of OT components has a negative impact on both security and production. With centralized awareness of the OT network, it is possible to determine which devices are joining and departing the network in real-time. It will be too late when one discovers a foreign device on the network. At that point, an attacker can deal good harm. This delay in discovery might impact the industrial unit’s output and safety.
Solution: Unlike IT systems, which operate based on confidentiality – integrity – availability, the OT network operates solely based on availability. The attacker may get access to the system through known but unpatched vulnerabilities, third-party systems, or poorly maintained OT devices. Continuous network monitoring is required to detect any intrusion attempts.
Recognizing that OT networks present a considerable attack surface, it is necessary to establish complete visibility across the board. To achieve full visibility, we must implement a management- and data-driven policy. Implementing asset identification, logging, Network Access Control (NAC), SIEM, and network segmentation is essential.
The Cloud and Internet
OT networks utilize the cloud to achieve maximum efficiency and optimal resource usage. OT networks rely heavily on suppliers to satisfy hardware requirements and other criteria. Few third-party suppliers give product warranties only if they have cloud-based access to the plant’s floor. This access allows vendors to control and operate their equipment remotely. Any vulnerability discovered on the vendor’s end can affect the security of the OT network.
Internet connection is a fascinating feature of OT networks. Without effective firewalls and other security procedures, most OT networks link directly to public Internet Service Providers or ISPs. These unprotected connections leave the system vulnerable to cyberattacks. In addition, these OT networks and systems are supported by outdated systems with minimal protection against developing threats.
Solution: Before providing vendor access to the factory floor, CISOs should completely understand the company’s security measures. The checklist should cover the vendor’s security processes, logins that provide access to the OT network, and network data flow, among others.
CISOs must comprehend their remote service provider’s cloud architecture and prepare a backup plan if their primary cloud service is compromised. A backup strategy would have allowed the facility to continue operating despite a cyberattack on the major cloud infrastructure.
IoT bots and DDoS attacks
All cybersecurity professionals know that these devices’ security posture is inadequate. The whole system can be hacked if a single weakness is discovered. The transformation of IoT devices into botnets by malicious actors. Attackers utilize these botnets to perform massive Distributed Denial of Services or DDoS assaults against OT and IT networks. In 2020, Google had a DDoS assault of around 167 Mpps. Meanwhile, GitHub was allegedly subjected to the greatest DDoS assault, which involved a bandwidth of 1.35 Terabits per second.
After getting authorization, attackers can modify data transmitted to Programmable Logic Controller or PLCs, compromising the safety and functionality of the facilities. The objective of state-sponsored DDoS assaults is to disrupt output for weeks or months.
Solution: You typically secure critical networks that cannot afford to experience downtime. And to do this, one must substitute strong passwords and distinct user names for the default credentials. Identification of assets will play a crucial part in safeguarding the systems.
Although DDoS assaults cannot be prevented, they may be mitigated by employing comprehensive OT security solutions. ACLs (Access Control Lists) may efficiently mitigate DDoS assaults by filtering incoming packets based on the port.
Utilize OT security to alleviate the challenges and obstacles experienced by the industrial sector. You can avoid problems caused by hostile attacks or even human errors with OT security.
Protect your organization and its stakeholders by implementing OT security immediately.