Securing your OT environment: how to proactively protect against cyber threats:
From Achilles’ heel to reinforced boot

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In May 2021, the Colonial Pipeline—one of the largest and most crucial of its kind—was savaged by a ransomware attack, infecting its systems, stealing its data, and driving it to near total disruption. As of today, it remains the largest publicly disclosed cyberattack against critical U.S. infrastructure. If a system this vast and this vital is vulnerable, you are too.

The Achilles’ heel in question was the pipeline’s operational technology (OT) systems, which are critical to infrastructure and industrial processes running smoothly. But as hackers keep notching their arrows, Colonial is hardly the only one getting caught in open-heel sandals.

According to the Fortinet 2022 State of Operational Technology and Cybersecurity Report, only 13% of organizations have centralized visibility of all OT activities.

This, in turn, makes it challenging to detect and respond to operational issues and cyber threats effectively—challenging but not impossible.

Since the need for these environments isn’t going anywhere, neither is the vulnerability—and if you can’t eliminate an Achilles’ heel, you can at least put on a pair of reinforced boots. Let us show you how:

The need for effective defenses

As threat actors increasingly target OT systems, they’re optimizing their attacks for industrial control systems (ICS) as well as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) devices. Not only did the number of reported 2022 ICS/OT vulnerabilities increase by 27% but reports also indicate that ransomware attacks against industrial organizations have risen by 87% between 2021 and 2022. The need for organizations to strengthen their OT security measures has never been more urgent. Doing this, however, isn’t as straightforward as it may seem, especially alone.

The frustration of implementation

Implementing OT security comes with its own set of challenges, mostly due to the sheer complexity of the environments. These often consist of purpose-built hardware and software components with interdependencies, which pose significant obstacles.

On top of that, many OT systems rely on legacy technologies that were not even designed with cyber threats in mind.

This inherited technology, coupled with the scarcity of security resources with OT expertise, further complicates the security landscape. Fear of disrupting operations, potential loss of productivity, and safety concerns also deter companies from prioritizing OT security.

Nevertheless, just because a job is hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

The assessment (and the answers)

To address these challenges alongside you, SHI is proud to offer an Operational Technology Security Briefing. This educational program provides organizations with a better understanding of OT architecture, components, functionality, and potential threats. It also highlights the integration of IT and OT, emphasizing how to:

  • Reduce cost through process streamlining and task automation.
  • Improve visibility and data analytics for more informed decisions based on real-time data.
  • Restrict access to OT environment through Role-based Access Control, MFA, Secure Access.
  • Decrease potential vulnerabilities.
  • Ensure integrity, availability, and confidentiality of data entering and leaving the OT environment.
  • Optimize alert, incident response, and remediation processes.
  • Control administrative access.

SHI also helps organizations analyze their OT environments by leveraging standard frameworks. This approach can identify how IT and OT are integrated, help you understand the administrative workflow, and determine the impact of failures.

By gaining a comprehensive understanding of the OT environment and potential risks, SHI experts can recommend short- and long-term plans to improve security posture and close security gaps as OT security matures.

Ultimately, improved visibility leads to proactive threat detection, resulting in improved operational efficiency.

By partnering with SHI and implementing the recommended security measures, organizations learn from attacks of the past, shoring up their defenses, shutting out Trojan horses, and locking down their Achilles’ heels. Reach out to us today to discover how SHI can uniquely protect you.