Operational technology (OT) cybersecurity, also known as Industrial Automation Control System (IACS) cybersecurity, is an area of concern for organizations that depend on industrial control systems (ICS) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems to operate critical infrastructure. Having a robust cybersecurity strategy will prevent unforeseen cyber attacks but there are some considerations to acknowledge first.
Unfortunately, there are myths surrounding OT cybersecurity that are leading to a false sense of security. One of the most common myths is that since ICS and SCADA systems are not connected to the internet, they are not vulnerable to cyber attacks. This is no longer the case given the rise of internet-connected devices being used in industrial environments.
Misconceptions in OT cybersecurity
Another common misconception is that IT cybersecurity solutions can be applied to OT systems without any modification. The truth is that OT systems have unique characteristics and requirements that separate them from IT systems. For example, OT systems are often built using proprietary technologies that might not be compatible with the standard IT security solution. Additionally, the OT system could have catastrophic consequences on the physical processes that it controls.
Incompatible solutions in OT/IT
One of the main reasons why IT security solutions are insufficient for OT systems is that they are not designed to address the specific threats pertaining to each. While IT solutions focus on protecting against external threats such as malware or phishing attacks, OT systems are also vulnerable to internal threats including misconfigured systems, disgruntled employees, and broader supply chain risks. The strict availability and performance requirements of OT systems require solutions that are designed to minimize disruption while still effectively shielding against cyber threats.
Modern cybersecurity demands a forward-looking solution to address challenges in OT security. An approach must include a comprehensive risk assessment, regular security testing and monitoring, and implementing security controls that are designed specifically for OT systems. This might include network segmentation, in-depth defenses, intrusion detection and incident response plans.
In addition, organizations must also invest in cybersecurity training programs for their employees and establish strong partnerships with experts in the field to provide ongoing consulting and guidance. By taking a proactive approach to OT cybersecurity, organizations can safeguard their critical infrastructure and minimize the risk of an attack.
Cybersecurity standards and guidelines
Common standards for addressing OT cybersecurity include IEC 62443, NIST Cybersecurity Framework, and ISO 27001.
- IEC 62443 provides a framework for securing industrial automation and control systems. This covers everything from risk assessments, security design, to incident response strategies. Organizations can use IEC 62443 to guide their cybersecurity efforts and demonstrate compliance with both regulators and customers.
- NIST Cybersecurity Framework is a guide to industrial control systems (ICS) security. It provides specific recommendations and best practices for securing ICS and SCADA systems, including those used in critical infrastructure.
- ISO 27001 is an Information Security Management System (ISMS) standard that provides a framework for managing information security risks. It can be applied to IT and OT systems and help organizations by identifying and mitigating risks to their assets, including those related to industrial control systems.
Therefore, IEC 62443, NIST Cybersecurity Framework, and ISO 27001 are all essential standards for securing industrial automation and control systems. While these standards are useful guidelines, organizations should tailor their approach to their specific needs and continuously monitor and update their security measures to stay ahead of the evolving threat landscape.
In summary, for companies that are reliant on industrial control and SCADA systems, OT cybersecurity is critical to the safety of their infrastructure. There are commonly overlooked gaps that aren’t considered which leads to a false sense of security, such as the belief that ICS and SCADA systems are not connected to the internet and not vulnerable to intrusions.
Organizations must adopt a forward-looking approach to OT cybersecurity by conducting a comprehensive risk assessment, regular security testing and monitoring, and implementing security controls specifically designed for OT systems. Training and awareness programs for employees and partnerships with cybersecurity experts must also be established to provide ongoing support and guidance. Organizations can better protect their critical infrastructure from cyber threats by taking a proactive approach to OT cybersecurity.
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