How CISOs Can Reduce the Risk of Ransomware to OT Network

How CISOs Can Reduce the Risk of Ransomware to OT Network-01

There has been an unprecedented spike in ransomware attacks against Operational Technology (OT) networks over the last year and a half. While this rise has garnered a lot of attention, it was something that industry analysts had been anticipating for some time.

Attacks on that infrastructure had been on the horizon, but they have become a reality. This period will continue as OT networks become more integrated with the IT infrastructure. Driven by the need to increase business profitability and efficiency, companies have embraced hyper-connectivity. Now, the primary challenge is to make the connections more secure. Chief Information Security Officers (CISO) need to take measures in this new reality to strengthen the security posture of their OT environments.

Here are recommendations every CISO should consider:

Broaden the scope of risk governance to cover any cyber-physical asset

This encompasses all components of the Industrial Internet of Things (IoT), Industrial Control Systems (ICS), and enterprise IoT components. Naturally, this is difficult for many firms, as identifying such assets is difficult. This is a process that may require several iterations. Fortunately, the cybersecurity sector has made enormous progress in recent years in technology, enabling organizations to rapidly find such assets and assess their exposure, risk, and weaknesses.

Also Read: Are Enterprises Ready for Modern Cyber Threats?

Ensuring IT and operational networks are correctly segmented 

Many business processes and apps require communication across the IT/OT divide, and organizations need to ensure that this occurs securely. This straightforward step is frequently overlooked, but it should not be. Additionally to IT/OT segmentation, it is essential to implement virtual segmentation within the OT environment. This will aid in detecting lateral movement within the OT networks. Additionally, if remote activities require direct access to OT networks, this must be accomplished via a secure remote access connection with restrictions over users, devices, and sessions.

Maintaining proper cyber hygiene

Organizations must ensure that their hygiene extends to OT and IoT devices.  This involves the usage of strong passwords (and avoiding the habit of exchanging passwords between users, which is prevalent in industrial processes), a password vault, and multi-factor authentication. Certain operations, such as patching legacy systems, may be more difficult or even impossible. If this is the case, determine and install compensatory restrictions such as firewall rules and access control lists.

Implementing a robust system monitoring program

This includes monitoring for risks in both IT and operational technology networks and anything that crosses that barrier. Agentless solutions interact seamlessly with both OT and IT systems and workflows and enable IT and OT teams to collaborate on OT environments. These solutions are purpose-built for constant threat monitoring across the OT network and can be implemented quickly. Utilizing the same data collection, these teams take particular steps to manage and reduce the risk associated with known and undiscovered risks.

Also Read: The Significance of Data Destruction for Data Security

Conducting drills to test the incident response plan

Conducting mock ransomware attacks can assist in assessing organizational and technological preparedness. This enables organizations to develop an enhanced incident response strategy and increases the confidence in preparation and resilience to such attacks.

Ransomware attacks are wreaking havoc on pipelines, processing factories, and food distribution. And while none of these attacks appear to have directly affected the OT environment, it is only a matter of time. With proper knowledge and tools, organizations can alter this trend. By taking a few simple, foundational steps, security leaders can reduce the risk of ransomware to industrial environments.

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Swapnil Mishra is a seasoned business news reporter with a passion for cybersecurity and IT security. After watching Edward Snowden's documentary "Citizen 4", Swapnil became fascinated with the importance of privacy not just for individuals but also for institutions, including countries as well as businesses. Since then, she has started writing about data privacy, threat hunting, risk assessment, and other important cybersecurity topics. In her articles, Swapnil focuses on the latest cybersecurity threats and trends, and she emphasizes the need for businesses and organizations to take a proactive approach to cybersecurity. She believes that cybersecurity is not just an IT issue, but a business issue that requires collaboration between different departments and stakeholders. Swapnil's reporting often highlights the potential consequences of cyber attacks, including financial losses, reputational damage, and legal repercussions. She stresses the importance of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that includes risk assessments, employee training, incident response plans, and continuous monitoring. She has a keen eye for detail and a knack for breaking down complex technical concepts into easy-to-understand language. When she's not writing about cybersecurity, Swapnil enjoys gardening, reading, traveling, and watching cat videos.