IT & OT Convergence

How to confidently protect your converged OT & IT environment.

The integration of Operational IT (OT) and Information Technology (IT) accelerates across industrial sectors as organisations digitally transform. OT and IT convergence, digitised architectures and machine learnings offer improvements, efficiencies and valuable insights into better ways of doing things. However, they also introduce new cybersecurity concerns. There are important cybersecurity challenges to overcome when integrating different and distributed Internet of Things (IoT) devices and technologies.

The cybersecurity challenge in OT and IT environments

Bringing together OT and IT enables agility and new business processes and opportunities. Rapid deployment and scalability are more manageable when using new systems and platforms. OT assets are typically legacy operating systems that don’t have built-in security capabilities in the software. OT assets are vulnerable to cybersecurity breaches because of their inherently complex topologies, lack of visibility and understanding of how and when assets are used.

Introducing intelligent devices and platforms, cloud connectivity, IoT and networks add to the complexity of the OT cybersecurity environment. Digitisation increases the volume of security data, visibility gaps and highlights a need for more automated cybersecurity measures.

In industrial settings, production downtime is measured by cost per minute and relates to lost revenue. An industrial style outage means wasted resources, damaged equipment or worse. Teams need to be able to quickly identify which device is breached and evaluate whether it impacts a critical system that could put people, production or facilities at risk. Organisations require defined processes to quarantine breached devices until they are cleared to return to the operating environment.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Connected and interconnected devices represent entry points for the bad guys. OT assets on public networks and the internet may be vulnerable to bypassing authentication and provide unauthorised access. Third-party providers installing unsecured assets may expose network access points open to a breach.

Programmable controls, cameras, sensors and equipment often come with embedded software that needs careful integration with existing programs or hackers can expose stack-based vulnerabilities and take control of the assets. For example, a simple flaw in the integration code could result in a breach could disable the safety systems designed to prevent an accident.

OT and IT systems cover both digital and physical spaces that demand continued uptime. Organisations must balance availability, privacy and integrity while protecting their environment from imminent cybersecurity threats.

Gaining better visibility of your OT environment.

Mitigate cybersecurity risks by considering the following:
  • Improving the visibility of your OT assets means gaining insights and information to prevent an unwanted breach.
  • Identify and understand your OT asset software and hardware inventory, including reviewing legacy processes for vulnerabilities.
  • Plan for regular OT network assessments and audits across operating systems and application software.
  • Document the processes across your OT environment and understand those that may impact your organisation’s safety, operation, and environment. Prioritise and protect these areas by securing connections, monitoring for intrusions and logging incident responses for ongoing learning.
  • Enabling automated threat detection is a must.
  • Create an incident response plan, so if a security breach occurs, you have to take immediate and automated action.