This article discusses OT security and why it is essential for protecting industrial systems from cyberattacks. We will also discuss common control objectives that can help companies improve their overall cybersecurity posture by implementing effective OT security measures.
What is OT Security?
OT security is the security of industrial control systems, which include all types of equipment and software used to control processes in an industrial environment. It has everything from buildings and machines to manufacturing lines, power plants, and water treatment facilities.
The OT environment includes all equipment connected to these systems via serial or Ethernet ports (or both). It also consists of the networks that connect these devices—for example, the local area network that connects them and interconnects them with other networks across larger geographical areas such as national or global scale.
Finally, it includes applications running on those same computers, such as SCADA/HMI software used for monitoring purposes or remotely controlling machinery through a cloud-based database system like Microsoft SQL Server Database Engine (SSDBE).
Importance of OT Security
Companies in the industrial area deal with a lot of inventory, customers, and other stakeholders. The annoyance to customers could result from even a brief pause in operations. A halt in operations can cause a company to lose customers, trust, and money. These businesses are guaranteed to continue operating thanks to OT security.
Manufacturers are making significant investments in the fusion of conventional operational technology (OT) and IT networks, introducing cutting-edge technology into settings that are still susceptible to problems that are over ten years old, like Conficker.
“As this research outlines, the convergence of IT and OT could unwittingly have a serious impact on production lines and could lead to the loss of IP and competitive advantage,” says the executive vice-president for Trend Micro.
Attacks that target OT environments are becoming more frequent. According to a survey, 90% of these organizations had at least one harmful cyberattack within the past two years.
50% of those faced with an incident claimed that it was an attack on the organization’s OT infrastructure and system that resulted in a plant or equipment outage.
The fact that answers to this survey came from the UK, Germany, Australia, the United States, Japan, and other countries shows how pervasive these cyber risks are. Therefore, OT security is crucial that breaches may result in physical repercussions like a breaker trip that turns off the lights.
Process Controls Example
Integrated systems that regulate a wide range of inputs and outputs are essential for producing water/wastewater systems, power, chemicals, pulp and paper, consumer packaged goods, and other goods.
These procedures necessitate specific inputs and outputs at each level and are commonly managed by distributed control systems.
To respond in real-time to readings from I/O devices, the control systems must take precautions against unintentional changes that could lead to severe physical damage or affect the product directly.
Severe risks can exist in process control environments. These systems were victims of some of the most well-known OT cyber security incidents.
An example is Stuxnet, which attacked Iranian centrifuges and the numerous cyberattacks on water treatment facilities, such as the attack of 2021 in Oldsmar, Florida.
Such occurrences posed a serious physical threat to the plant or its output or caused considerable physical harm.
Discrete Manufacturing Example
Automobile, electronics, and many other manufacturing-related businesses risk product damage or production disruptions resulting in monetary loss.
The attack could also physically injure the plant or people if directed at a specific step in the process or if it affects robots or other mechanical gear.
Furthermore, discrete systems frequently include sensitive personal information, including intellectual property, which could expose to an exploit in delicate manufacturing operations.
Distributed Control Example
Wide-area networking (WAN) capabilities are essential to retaining transparency and management in transportation systems like pipelines and energy or water distribution. Physically distributed controllers define these systems.
Distributed controls, frequently used to control valves, safety relays, meters, and similar equipment, depend on various networking hardware and software types to achieve that transparency.
These systems are subject to cyber risk, including operations disruption to physical equipment failure.
Consequences can range from cutting off vital valves on a gas pipeline that supplies the fuel required by power plants to turning off safety relays that could halt power distribution throughout the system.
Common Control Objectives for OT Security Management
To achieve these objectives, the OT Security Management System (OSMS) is designed to identify, protect, and monitor all the critical assets used to support the OT operation. These assets include:
- The operating system itself
- Hardware devices such as servers and storage arrays
- Software applications running on those devices
As we have seen, there are many reasons to improve your OT security. In the end, it is all about protecting your business and its customers from risks that may arise.