Securing Operational technology (OT) from Cybersecurity Threats and Risks

Operational technology

Operational technology devices, applications, and users lack centralized visibility, which exposes organizations to cybersecurity threats that can result in disastrous business disruptions.

Enterprises today have a huge number of missing security patches in OT. A recent report published by Fortinet titled “2022 State of Operational Technology and Cybersecurity Report” suggests that nearly 93% of the OT organizations witnessed an intrusion in the previous year, and approximately 78% of them have witnessed more than three intrusions. It is a challenging and expensive task for the SecOps teams to evaluate their ICS to detect these missing security patches. Hence, cybersecurity industry veterans are shifting their focus from a patch everything approach to a risk-based approach to manage vulnerabilities in their Operational technology.

Here are a few ways to secure OT from various cyber security threats and risks:

Map business network and analyze connectivity

operational technology managers should consider determining all physical and digital locations of all devices mapped within the IT infrastructure as their top priority. SecOps teams need to set effective security postures and tools to monitor interactions between all the programmable logic controllers (PLC). It is crucial to spot all the communication errors between different PLCs to minimize the risks to the Operational technology. Enterprises need to ensure all the connections of all the assets in the business network are accurately mapped.

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Identify all the suspicious activities, exposures, and malware attacks

SecOps teams need to define frameworks to identify suspicious activities on the business network, such as potential exposures and malware attacks. CISOs should consider implementing tools to minimize false positives without underreporting threats to improve the Operational technology security posture. Implementing a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tool will enable enterprises to identify all suspicious activity and threats in the business network.

SIEM tools are one of the most effective ways to evaluate the potential attack types and suspicious activities that might impact operational technology. SecOps teams can leverage Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFWs) to spot all the threats by scanning data packets streaming into the business network from the internet.

Once the system detects threats, all the data packets associated with it will get discarded and result in securing the operational technology and its assets.

Implement a vulnerability management system

CISOs should consider integrating a robust vulnerability management system into their security tech stack to spot all the missing security patches for every cyber asset. The best vulnerability management tools enable businesses to automate the decision of what to patch and when. SecOps teams can prioritize developing a patching process wherein patches are deployed at regular intervals to reduce the risk of applying every patch. Automating the decision-making process will feed information into the process that assists in patching areas that need immediate attention. Enterprises need to have a security posture that schedules the patching at regular intervals to minimize the attack surface areas of operational technology.

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Embrace a zero-trust framework to secure operational technology

One of the most resilient ways to secure OT is by implementing Zero Trust Network Architecture (ZTNA). Because the ZTNA framework is designed on a framework that does not trust without verifying first, this approach will enable businesses to verify the legitimacy of users, applications, or systems before allowing them to connect to the operational technology. Implementing Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) tools into the OT security tech stack to add an additional layer of security to access the OT assets.

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