OT Security Defined
Operational Technology (OT) is hardware and software that detects or causes a change through the direct monitoring and/or control of physical devices, processes and events in the enterprise, according to Gartner. OT is common in Industrial Control Systems (ICS) such as a SCADA System. In the world of critical infrastructure, OT may be used to control power stations or public transportation. As this technology advances and converges with networked tech the need for OT security grows exponentially.
For many years, industrial systems relied upon proprietary protocols and software, were manually managed and monitored by humans, and had no connection to the outside world. For this reason, they were a fairly insignificant target for hackers as there was no networked interface to attack and nothing to gain or destroy. The only way to infiltrate these systems was to obtain physical access to a terminal and this was no easy task. OT and IT integrated little and did not deal with the same kinds of vulnerabilities.
Today, it's a very different story as we see more industrial systems brought online to deliver big data and smart analytics as well as adopt new capabilities and efficiencies through technological integrations. IT-OT convergence gives organizations a single view of industrial systems together with process management solutions that ensure accurate information is delivered to people, machines, switches, sensors and devices at the right time and in the best format. When IT and OT systems work in harmony together, new efficiencies are discovered, systems can be remotely monitored and managed and organizations can realize the same security benefits that are used on administrative IT systems.
This transition from closed to open systems has generated a slew of new security risks that need to be addressed.
Why is OT Security Important?
As industrial systems become more connected, they also become more exposed to vulnerabilities. The high cost of industrial equipment and the devastation to communities and economies that an attack could generate are key factors for organizations looking to protect their industrial networks. Add legacy equipment, safety regulations that may prohibit any modifications being made to equipment and compliance regulations that require sensitive data to be made available to third parties, and you have quite a challenge on your hands.
The good news is that it is possible to secure industrial networks without disrupting operations or risking non-compliance. By using solutions that allow complete visibility of network control traffic and establishing the right security policies, you can put an effective OT strategy in place that will protect your processes, people and profit and significantly reduce security vulnerabilities and incidents.
Securing Today's Industrial Networks
More good news is that industrial environments usually have lower volumes of traffic than IT environments. Much of the traffic is traveling between determined endpoints and therefore can be baselined and inventoried more easily than traffic that is generated on an IT network. Using monitoring and analysis tools can help to identify and protect against unauthorized changes and other anomalies that could signal an attack in full progress or in its initial stages.
Forcepoint's Next Generation Firewall (NGFW) offers policy-driven centralized management that puts you in complete control of your industrial environment. Whether you need to analyze thousands of endpoints or a smaller network, NGFW can be configured on the fly to find unexpected or unauthorized traffic and other potential indicators of compromise on industrial systems.