OT Cybersecurity in Heavy Industries: 6 Challenges

OT Cybersecurity

Revolution in Operational Technology occurred prior to that of Information Technology. The physical elements of the industry are controlled and operated by operational technology. It includes hardware and software.

The same disruptive dangers now affect connected industrial systems. Such as those utilized in manufacturing and transportation. For that reason, today’s industries are now focusing on how to fix the OT security challenges.

What Does (Operational Technology) OT Security Entail?

Operating technology (OT) is used in critical infrastructure, industry, and other areas. OT is a subset of information technology (IT). Its custom protocols and software automate, monitor, and manage industrial equipment.

As the IIoT grows, OT systems are no longer insulated from IT. Why? Because IT systems are being connected to make OT pieces more accessible while collecting data about them. These developments need a greater emphasis on OT security.

An OT security solution meets OT security needs. It includes ensuring system availability and understanding OT procedures.

Taking the help of an OT security venture will be an intelligent move for industries such as healthcare, automotive, and many more. A professional OT Security vendor will use behavioral analytics and baseline analysis to alert and/or automate fixes. You can see which personnel are misusing devices or trying to modify settings.

If such acts are found, a supervisor may be notified, and their account will be temporarily stopped pending a full investigation.

How Has the Lack of OT Cybersecurity Failed Heavy Industries in the Past?

Several industries have accepted and deliberately reduced OT security issues. Healthcare, utilities, and manufacturing are particularly worried. In response to previous attacks against COVID vaccine producers, an OT-specific SoC (system on a chip) was created.

A SOC is a command center for IT experts. Information security experts observe, analyze, and protect organizations against cyber threats.

Image source: Pexels

Before OT security, the car industry was exposed to hackers. A cyberattack on a Japanese automaker shut down many activities. The error has caused millions in losses. In light of recent intrusions, heavy industries are requesting board-level OT security funding.

The investment will help them utilize heavy OT security tools to monitor their network. The OT security skills gap has been addressed as one of the most pressing issues in the industrial cybersecurity sector.

The OT sector will continue to need specific skills. For example, technical skills, strict security framework, mitigation measurement, etc.

Regardless of the industry’s capacity to adapt to a shifting environment, these skills are necessary. 

What OT cybersecurity challenges do heavy industries face?

  1. Absence of Technical Skills

The VP/Head of Manufacturing oversees OT cybersecurity at 31% of companies. They are not cybersecurity professionals. OT cybersecurity solutions were first created for IT and subsequently adopted.

Because of this, they need a unique set of skills, which may be found in the IT SOC, but are nearly non-existent in the OT SOC. Therefore, OT cybersecurity technologies are often deployed or handled, resulting in suboptimal security.

  1. Security Framework Breaches in the OT Environment

There are alarmingly high instances of OT security breaches. Only 10% of respondents stated they’d never been intimidated. 75% of firms expect regulatory pressure to rise in two years.

And 58% reported a violation last year. When the study period is 24 months, the breach rate jumps to 80%, demonstrating that OT systems are cyberattacks’ primary targets. 78% of companies aim to boost ICS/SCADA security investment this year.

  1. Continuous Processes Using Legacy Systems

Despite high-profile attacks on unpatched systems, not all industries patch ICS. Many of these systems use old Windows versions.

Microsoft released a patch for Windows XP and other incompatible operating systems to lessen risk. In many industrial settings, uninterrupted operation is required.

  1. Mitigation Measures Are Ineffective in Operating Technology

Many systems detect risks but provide only theoretical or vague instructions on handling them. Others supply extensive playbooks that don’t apply to OT situations.

It is an excellent time to have a look at “patching.” OT security patching differs significantly from IT security patching. OT network operators seldom perform product patches because they require system shutdowns. OT mitigation plans that incorporate patching are nearly always impractical.

Most industrial and critical infrastructure professionals lack full-fledged security teams. Therefore, mitigating actions must be unique.

  1. Only for Post-breach Assessment

Reactive, post-breach detection is the most common approach to OT security which is a challenge for heavy industries. After-the-fact mitigation and prevention are more costly and less effective than proactive approaches.

Unlike in a corporate IT setting, no downtime is acceptable in an OT environment. After an outage, resuming production may take days or weeks, generating financial losses.

Even if no vulnerability is identified, operators and workers may suffer. They may also cause long-term damage to the company’s reputation due to their actions.

But with the help of an OT security company, the issue can be solved. The professionals will know what OT security devices should be used to overcome the threats.

  1. Severe Alert Weariness

Security stakeholders are alerted when today’s OT solutions detect possible cyber breaches. The best anti-virus applications provide several warnings to avoid false positives.

Most OT security paradigms rely on several solutions with various alert thresholds. If the same event occurs, it isn’t unusual to have many warnings from different network sections.

Alert fatigue‘ prevents security professionals from focusing on actual hazards over false positives.

How Should the Heavy Industries Secure Their OT Environment?

Here are some ways to quickly secure your OT environment-

  1. Encrypted Connection

Many industries struggle with providing safe access. Various methods of entry must be established for distinct groups of people. OT security venture will utilize multi-factor authentication to limit system access to users.

Image source: Pexels

Centralized logging facilitates secure access management. To find and fix security holes, centralized logging is essential.

  1. Information of Software

Industries must consider software versions, updates, and OT compatibility. When determining potential weak points, vulnerability scanning is a crucial component to consider.

  1. Management of the Assets of an Industry

The first responsibility of every corporation is to safeguard the OT systems that act as the brain of the business. Much operational technology (OT) systems suffer from a lack of transparency.

Many industries are unsure of the precise number of OT systems they have. Every organization’s OT system must be fully accounted for as part of asset management. As a result, they may make better-informed judgments regarding their defenses.

  1. Patching Control

It’s essential to keep your computer and software up-to-date via patching. Organizations must know an asset’s patching needs. The OT patching procedure is delicate; therefore, care must be used.

Automated OT patching may not be the ideal solution in many cases. However, this does not determine the need for a comprehensive patching strategy.

  1. System Division

Unassociated networks are separated via network segmentation. The goal is to break up massive networks into smaller subnets based on their specific roles.

Compromises can be isolated with the use of segmentation. An attack on the development network won’t affect the sales network. Businesses should use proven processes by OT security vendors instead of starting from scratch.

  1. Backup and Disaster Recovery

Backups are the best strategy to avoid data loss in the first place. Backups are a must-have for any business. Various techniques and recommended practices exist to guarantee that backups are safe.

Conclusion

Every industry must prioritize OT security to meet market demand and plant availability. Lack of asset visibility makes OT security difficult for organizations.

Because of this, there are ways to mitigate the high-level dangers. An effective security program requires the correct knowledge, design, and implementation.

Vulnerability scans are an essential part of the OT security process. Enterprises must consider software versions, upgrades, and OT compatibility.

OT systems should be accounted for as part of asset management in every company. Industries need to patch their computer and software regularly to keep them secure. This guide has tried to summarize the most common OT security issues businesses encounter.

As a result, you will know exactly what to do in the event of a security breach.

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