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How OT Cybersecurity Enhances the Protection of Industrial Infrastructure

Technological advances have changed the way industries operate through different industrial revolutions from time to time.

The first industrial revolution or industry 1.0 started in the 18th century. It focused on steam power and on the mechanization of production. Then came the second industrial revolution, termed industry 2.0. This began in the 19th century through the discovery of electricity. It helped in mass production in quick time and lower costs.

We are at the end of the third industrial revolution or industry 3.0. This revolution began in the 1970s and had partial automation at its core. Most of the industrial processes were carried out using semi-automated machines. This increased the production volume while reducing the production time and costs.

We are at the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution or industry 4.0. This revolution has data, technology, and internet connectivity at its core. It is expected to take industrial production to an unimaginable level with complete autonomous processes, digitization, and even predicting the occurrence of unwanted events beforehand. 

This will help streamline processes, reduce downtimes, and improve production efficiencies. This will eventually result in tremendous business growth. But, this inter-connected, data-reliant revolution also brings threats. Cyber threats, to be precise.

Cybercriminals are always scheming new ways to cripple industrial operations through cyber attacks. For example, they are carrying out OT malware attacks to disrupt or halt OT devices’ functioning specifically. Similarly, they are also carrying out ransomware, trojan, and worm attacks to disrupt the functioning of various industries.

Thus, industries must implement robust cyber security measures to protect themselves. One of the quick and easy ways they can achieve this is by focusing on Operational Technology (OT) cyber security.

But, what is OT security? You may ask. OT cyber security refers to procedures and best practices designed to mitigate and prevent the exploitation of cyber-physical systems and industrial control systems (ICS). OT cybersecurity concerns production level equipment used to manage physical products.

Now let’s understand how OT cybersecurity enhances the protection of industrial infrastructure.

Role of OT Cybersecurity in Industrial Infrastructure Protection

OT cyber security provides various cyber security benefits to ​​a wide variety of businesses and critical industrial infrastructure sectors. Here is how OT cyber security helps protect from cyber attacks.

  1. Improving Visibility Over Assets

A major issue big industrial organizations face is geographically dispersed plants. This makes it difficult to have complete visibility over endpoints spread across various locations. This, in turn, can increase the risk of cyber attacks.

OT cyber security helps gain enhanced and complete visibility over hard-to-reach endpoints easily. You can better monitor and manage your assets by implementing OT cyber security. This, in turn, reduces the risk of cyber attacks impacting the organization.

  1. Enhancing Patching

Devices need to be patched with updates regularly. This ensures that cyber criminals don’t exploit software vulnerabilities to carry out a successful cyber attack. But, patching is easier said than done, especially for legacy systems.

You need to have the proper patching strategy in place to ensure that patching is done correctly. For example, it is impossible to patch all your internet-connected devices simultaneously. You need to carry out the patching process on a priority basis.

OT cyber security practices help you identify your most critical assets. You can prioritize them based on the threat risk and cyber attack outcomes. This ensures you patch your most critical assets first. You can protect them from falling prey to cyber attacks.

  1. Enabling Secure Logging

Many industrial enterprises find it difficult to provide different user access levels and enable secure logging. This means that any third party can get access to the industrial system and network.

But, OT cyber security helps mitigate this issue seamlessly. For instance, a robust OT cyber security solution can help create and assign different access levels to different employees based on their designation. Moreover, it can enable two-factor authentication and centralized logging. This can further help strengthen employee secure login.

  1. Helping in Vulnerability Management

An OT cyber security approach enables you to conduct software analyses in real-time. This helps find and manage vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cyber criminals. Thus, you can fix the vulnerabilities quickly and protect your industrial infrastructure from cyber attacks.

For instance, in 2012, a group of cyber criminals carried out one of the biggest attacks on an industrial system. They transmitted malware, Shamoon, by sending a scam email to an employee. 

The malware targeted the 32-bit NT kernel version of Microsoft Windows. An OT cyber security solution could have helped with email scanning. This would have prevented the malware from harming the system.

  1. Automating Cybersecurity Processes

Ensuring the cyber security of the organization is a resource-intensive and time-consuming task. OT cyber security practices and solutions help save time and resources by automating the various tasks involved while enhancing the cyber security measures.

For example, many OT security vendors provide OT cyber security solutions that can effortlessly collect, analyze, and manage data from numerous devices, systems, and endpoints.

The collated data is also presented on a unified dashboard in easy-to-understand formats, such as graphs and charts. This helps improve visibility. Moreover, it also eliminates the time, resources, and money spent on manual report preparation tasks.

The saved components can be used in other operations to enhance the organization’s cyber security further.

  1. Improving IT/OT Collaboration

The thin line between IT and OT is diminishing with each passing day with IT/OT convergence. OT cyber security helps with IT/OT convergence by enhancing IT/OT collaboration. This, in turn, helps enhance the organization’s overall cyber security.

For instance, OT solutions provide cyber security teams with information regarding various types of critical data. This includes the number of assets, their location, who owns them, and their criticality risk. Cyber security teams can develop better measures to protect their IT and OT devices based on the information.

Conclusion

Thus, we can see that OT cyber security plays a significant role in any organization’s cyber security measures. It helps enhance the cyber security framework and provides greater protection against a myriad of cyber attacks.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that OT cyber security needs to be an indispensable part of your organization’s overall cyber security policy if you want to protect your industrial infrastructure.

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