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6 Essentials of Robust OT Security

February 22, 2023

OT networks are a key target for cyberattacks. In fact, according to IBM Security, there was a 3,000 percent increase in IoT malware between Q3 2019 and Q4 2020 alone. On top of this, driving IT/OT convergence exposes the critical OT assets to even more risk if not implemented properly. Network deployment and security controls must offer sufficient security to protect critical infrastructure, data, and systems.

So, how can you help your organization take the right approach to your IT/OT convergence with a robust OT security plan? This guide to OT security explores the OT security best practices that will maximize your chances of success while protecting your OT assets.

 

1. Establish a Baseline for Vulnerability and Incident Response

One of the most critical aspects of your operational technology security plan is ensuring you have the defenses and cybersecurity solutions in the case of an attack or vulnerability. Go beyond patching vulnerabilities and change control to ensure you actively monitor your entire environment. That way, your security operations center (SOC) can respond to any vulnerabilities before they affect your enterprise.

You can’t secure what you don’t know, so be sure to perform a full analysis of your current state of OT security and identify gaps in your environment. Penetration testing services are an option as well. Once you have a clear understanding of your IT and OT networks, you can establish your baseline response to threats and vulnerabilities.

 

2. Communicate Goals and Expectations

What change would you like to see? What challenges are you trying to solve? Be sure your security teams are on the same page by developing a clear picture of overall objectives, roles, responsibilities, and the overlap between IT and OT. Your teams must work with each other to develop a secure infrastructure that spans beyond OT and throughout your organization. Focus on opportunities to collaborate and involve everyone to ensure nobody is left behind and no risk is left unprotected.

 

3. Budget and Plan Ahead to Avoid Downtime

Review where you are now in terms of your OT security maturity, efficiencies and inefficiencies, and infrastructure. Replace and update any legacy applications that are affecting your processes, as well as any OT environments that have aged or aren’t supported. These are not isolated and can affect the security of your environment. At a minimum, you should understand the performance and security limitations to plan and secure accordingly.

Your incident response plan should always assume and plan for the worst. You’ll need to minimize downtime as much as possible to recover in the case of a breach. Having good data analytics insights into your production and network systems can significantly help with this.

 

4. Establish a Zero-Trust Approach to Security

The zero-trust architecture assumes there is a risk to your security at all times. With this approach, all traffic is suspicious until proven otherwise. Although zero-trust is a shift from perimeter-based defenses, many aspects of the approach are likely already incorporated into your current security. Zero-trust is key to OT cybersecurity, as it helps your team adopt a mindset that minimizes the risk of an unnoticed threat to your infrastructure.

 

5. Follow Industry Best Practices

As you plan ahead, be sure to remediate any security or compliance issues that are affecting your security posture. On top of these four IT and OT security essentials, your OT security program needs to account for best practices such as the following:

  1. Segmenting networks, i.e., separating OT networks from IT networks to limit the potential impact of a cyberattack
  2. Regularly patching and updating software and firmware to fix vulnerabilities
  3. Routine penetration testing with a reliable penetration testing company
  4. Establishing boundaries that will ensure seamless data sharing
  5. Implementing strict access controls and monitoring for unusual activity
  6. Conducting regular risk assessments to identify potential vulnerabilities
  7. Using strong encryption for communications and data storage
  8. Regularly training employees on cybersecurity best practices and raising awareness of potential threats
  9. Having an incident response plan in place and regularly testing it
  10. Regularly monitoring the network and systems for suspicious activity with a managed detection and response solution
  11. Conduct regular penetration testing
  12. Maintaining inventory of all devices and software in use on the network
  13. Regularly backing up critical data and having a disaster recovery plan in place

Every detail matters. These best practices will guide you toward the best possible OT security program.

 

6. Work with a Partner to Protect OT

Challenges securing operational technology (OT) assets are mounting along with the OT skills shortage and the IT/OT convergence have created the perfect storm. Working with a partner can help you follow best practices and protect your critical IT and OT assets.

ProArch’s power generation industry and manufacturing industry expertise sets us up well to help you secure your OT and IT assets so that unplanned outages and downtime are minimized. We can help create a long-term strategy that enables growth while mitigating risk. Learn more about our OT security services.

 

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