Strategies to Strengthen the Operational Technology (OT) Cybersecurity Posture


The cybersecurity landscape has evolved tremendously and has made it challenging for cybersecurity teams to defend their IT and OT infrastructure from various sophisticated threats and risks. Cybercriminals are on the prowl to look out for less secure critical infrastructures to infiltrate the OT and create disruptions in business operations.

Colonial Pipeline and JBS ransomware attacks are a few high-profile cyberattack incidents that disrupted their operations. Many CISOs tend to miss out on a lot of critical security aspects that leave the organization exposed to various threats while developing a cybersecurity strategy to secure the operational technology.

Here are a few strategies that CISOs, CSOs, and SecOps teams can consider to strengthen a company’s OT security posture:

Evaluate user account management and access control

A few organizations do not have workflows set to regularly audit their user account base or access control settings. The majority of them tend to overlook important tedious functions like tedious administrative permissions, weak or old password credentials, and open accounts for already resigned employees. Enterprises that do not include audits regularly will usually identify many accounts that were left open for longer periods of time, even after the employee has left the organization. CISOs should consider evaluating all the user accounts for Industrial Control Systems (ICSs) to ensure hygiene, password strength, and required levels of access for every account.

Also Read: 3 Measures for XIoT Cybersecurity

Maintain software inventory

Another crucial aspect that many CISOs tend to overlook is all the tools integrated into the tech stack that are not relevant to the organization’s operations or help in accomplishing the business goals. It has become crucial for the SecOps teams to look out for possible open vulnerabilities in their entire business network and patch all the vulnerabilities if any critical vulnerabilities are found. If the enterprise leverages a traditional, outdated operating system that cannot be updated, the organization should determine what vulnerability mitigation strategy needs to be implemented to manage the risk vector and minimize the risks. Enterprises that do not have a holistic view of which applications, software, and operating systems expose the business network to potential cyber threats and vulnerabilities that can have a devastating impact on business operations.

Analyze firewall rules

CISOs should ensure that all their firewall governance policies are updated to reflect all the latest changes, like the withdrawal of operational sub-systems, applications, tools, or software.

SecOps teams need to be vigilant about the governance policies that allow open access to any user in the system. Organizations that are not able to restrict unauthorized interaction attempts from the internet from an attacker into the organization’s network will result in potential business disruption. CISOs and CSOs should consider auditing and continuously monitoring the firewall governance policies in real time to ensure efficient segmentation of the operational technology networks.

Keep the anti-virus/anti-malware signatures updated

Many organizations do not monitor or prioritize signature updates in their endpoint and/or network intrusion detection systems. Enterprises that have outdated, obsolete anti-virus and malware protection expose the company to multiple sophisticated cyber threats and risks.

Also Read: USB Drive-Centric Malware Found by Industrial Organizations Targeted Operational Technology

CISOs should consider monitoring these applications to enable their enterprise to keep all the latest signatures updated.

Strengthen operational technology security posture management

The majority of organizations do not have proactive OT security posture management that strengthens their cybersecurity posture. SecOps teams usually have reactive approaches implemented due to a lack of resources and tech stack. Every enterprise needs to prioritize strengthening the cybersecurity posture of its operational technology by implementing resilient, consistent, and enterprise-wide security posture management strategies. A cohesive approach to secure the IT and OT infrastructure helps organizations to enhance their security posture, deployment, and remediation strategies to minimize exposure and risks. It is essential for every organization to have a robust cybersecurity tech stack that monitors all the operational technology environments in real time, identifies the threats, and mitigates them effectively to ensure business continuity.

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