Security for Operational Technology Environments
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Blog Post

Security for Operational Technology Environments

John Tolbert
Published on Sep 05, 2022

Operational Technology (OT) systems encompass Industrial Control Systems (ICS), Critical Infrastructure Systems (CIS), and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). OT environments face threats similar to those that traditional enterprise IT systems do, as well as threats unique to each type and implementation. 

ICS environments are those found in manufacturing facilities and warehouses, and may involve dedicated Human-to-Machine Interfaces (HMIs), Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), sensors, valves, actuators, etc. Critical Infrastructure includes regional and municipal power plants and distribution grids, water treatment plants, traffic and navigation systems, etc. IIoT devices include various sensor types, cameras, and other IP-enabled devices. Though the settings in which these systems operate and the equipment types comprising OT environments are diverse, the consequences of cyber-attacks can often be more severe than attacks against isolated corporate targets.  

Real-life examples 

Ransomware attacks against manufacturing plants have set back production not only in their facilities but throughout other members of their supply chains. Ransomware incidents have halted overland and overseas shipments for weeks while IT teams scramble to eliminate the malware and restore from backups so that businesses can get back up and running. Cyber-attacks against power generation facilities have turned out the lights temporarily in some cases. Ransomware attacks on hospitals and other medical facilities threaten not only patient data but lives. Even compromises of enterprise IT systems at companies running OT can have severe impacts for those companies and national economies.  

Key components for securing industrial environments 

It is clear that the risks of OT compromise extend far beyond the organizations that are initially impacted. KuppingerCole recently published a Market Compass on Industrial Controls Security. We identify several key components for securing these environments: 

At the KuppingerCole Cybersecurity Leadership Summit, we’ll address topics pertinent to OT security. We’ll have a track on Building Resilience, a session on Zero Trust for OT, security in the energy sector, endpoint security for ransomware prevention and mitigation, securing data in IoT realms, and strategic approaches to securing ICS environments.

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