Four Key Ways CISOs can Strengthen OT Security

male it specialist walks between row of operational server racks in picture id1394184350

The past decade has seen an increase in the number of operational technology (OT) attacks and their impact on organizations. Fortinet recently released its 2022 State of Operational Technology and Cybersecurity Report revealing that 93% of OT organizations experienced one intrusion in the past year and 78% of them experienced more than three intrusions. The survey also found that CISOs and business leaders consider OT security a top concern. Outlined below are steps leaders can take to improve their OT security posture to decrease the risk of threats and keep up with bad actors.

The Convergence of OT and IT Networks

One main reason why OT security has become a target for threats is because it is becoming as vulnerable as IT networks. OT environments traditionally were air-gapped from IT networks and security wasn’t a critical part of the design. Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) didn’t need to verify the authenticity of message senders and controller communications and they also had no need for an encryption capability. But in order to achieve greater productivity, efficiency and other benefits, OT processes are becoming more digitized and no longer air-gapped from IT networks, meaning that the lack of security measures poses a critical risk for cyberattack. This is why it is especially crucial for CISOs to make the protection of their OT networks a high priority in their security strategies and the execution of them.

Four Best Practices to Improve OT Security

As CISOs realize the need to improve their OT security practices, there are 4 areas where they should consider focusing.

  1. Establish Zero Trust Access to prevent breaches. As more industrial systems are connecting to the network, Zero Trust Access solutions ensure that any user, device or applications without proper credentials and permissions is denied access to critical assets. Zero Trust Access solutions can further defend against both external and insider threats. 
  2. Implement centralized visibility of all OT activities: End-to-end visibility of industrial activities is an important part of an organization’s security strategy. The Fortinet report reveals that the organizations that reported no intrusions in the past year—only 6% of the respondents—were more than three times as likely to have achieved centralized visibility than their counterparts who were victims of intrusions.
  3. Consolidate security vendors and solutions: To reduce complexity and get centralized visibility of devices, organizations should simplify their OT and IT technology stacks by migrating to solutions from capable vendors with broader suites of integrated capability. By using integrated solutions, security teams can avoid the need to manual integrate dozens of solutions from different vendors and take full advantage of AI-driven automation.
  4. Deploy network access control (NAC) technology: Organizations that managed to avoid intrusions in the past 12 months were more than likely to have a NAC solution like FortiNAC in place. This cutting-edge security tool ensures only authorized people can access critical systems and digital assets.

Reducing Organizational Risks

There are a handful of good reasons for OT security to get attention from the C-suite of any industrial organization. Attacks on OT can significantly impact an organization’s productivity and, subsequently, its finances. Fortinet’s survey reveal that nearly 50% of the organizations suffered an operation outage that affected their productivity with 90% of incidents requiring a significant amount of time and effort to restore service. Also, over 30% of respondents say their organizations experienced revenue loss, data loss, compliance difficulties, and hits to their brand’s reputation. Some attacks even affected employee or public safety.

While OT security is gradually improving, there are still security gaps that exist in many organizations. A vast majority of organizations use between two and eight different security vendors for securing their industrial devices according to Fortinet’s report. Organizations also reported having between 100 and 10,000 different devices in operations at a time. This complexity poses a challenge for IT security teams using multiple OT security tools that are not integrated.

Through the Fortinet Security Fabric, Fortinet covers the OT security requirements for the entire converged OT-IT network. Fortinet’s proven network security solutions for operational technology include its Next Generation Firewall, FortiNAC and FortiSIEM, among other solutions. Fortinet’s Security Fabric covers the entire converged IT-OT network to close OT security gaps, deliver full visibility and provide simplified management.

Learn more about securing critical infrastructures with Fortinet.

To learn more about better protecting your OT network, please check out the report





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