Why Do You Need Operational Network Security?
Modern operational technology (OT) networks are evolving due to developments such as the rise Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Industry 4.0, smart grid and more. In order to remain competitive in their industries, organizations are adopting these beneficial technologies to optimize their operations and significantly cut operational costs.
These new technologies increase the connectivity and the complexity of operational environments, and as a result, their exposure to potential OT cyber attacks or damage caused by human error increases significantly. In the past, operators trusted network segmentation, isolation, or air-gapping as an effective security measure. But due to the increasing connectivity between the OT, IT and other networks, this is no longer true. Therefore adhering to OT security best practices, and deploying the most advanced OT security tools is critical for the protection, visibility, and control of OT environments.
IT Cyber Security Vs. OT Cyber Security. Why they are not the same.
Deploying cyber security tools built for IT networks and trying to adapt them for OT networks does not offer sufficient protection from OT-specific attack vectors. Utilizing IT security tools in OT might even be as dangerous as having no security, as they provide a false sense of security. OT networks, equipment, and protocols are different from their IT counterparts and therefore, require a different mindset. Planning a robust OT network security architecture requires security solutions that are tailored for their characteristics, and are specifically designed for the high availability nature and the unique traffic patterns of the OT network.
5 Best Practices For OT Security:
1. Automatic discovery and full visibility and management of OT asset inventory
The days of managing OT networks, machines and inventory with excel sheets should be long gone. Yet we still hear cases of major manufacturing organizations using this outdated and insecure method of tracking their assets. The process of asset inventory should be automated using a tool that can do continuous updates and provide information about potential vulnerabilities. Automating asset inventory makes OT security managers more efficient by providing them with information is more accurate. It also removes the risk of shadow OT devices that are unaccounted for and can become undetected attack vectors.
2. Proactive actionable warnings regarding risks and vulnerabilities in the OT network
OT security managers must evaluate the criticality of their assets, their vulnerable hosts, and they must understand their exposed network areas before they are exploited by malware or potential attackers. Gathering this information will help teams prevent the next cyber attack, instead of having to clean up after one. Recent cyber-attacks such as Lockbit, LockerGoga, RYUK, Odveta ransomware and others from well-organized, financially and politically motivated hacker groups, have infected machines virally, in a matter of minutes, rendering entire departments inactive. Such an attack nearly took down South Staffs Water utility in central England in August, 2022. By taking a proactive approach, organizations can prevent damages of hundreds of millions of dollars, and delayed production process recovery times for weeks or even months.
3. Network mapping and connectivity analysis
OT security managers must know where all of the devices are mapped on the network and which devices are connected to which devices. If a PLC is has unauthorized communication with another PLC, OT managers have to know instantly, instead of discovering it after potential downtime or damage to the production occurs.
4. Detection of suspicious activities, exposures, and malware attacks
OT Security software needs to be able to detect malware infections, check for policy violations, implement effective authentication mechanisms and have the ability to pinpoint which devices in the network have been exploited in the case of a cyber-attack. They must subsequently provide remediation actions in order to contain the cyber-attack and prevent it from spreading.
5. Full, deep-packet analysis of the network & industrial equipment activities
Sadly, most of today’s OT Security vendors rely on “sampling” to analyze OT networks. This means that they randomly select packets traveling through the OT network to feed into their OT security platform to analyze. They do this since their systems simply can’t handle the massive amount of information that is passing through the wires. So they only examine a small percentage of the information and use it to reach important, but sometimes invalid conclusions. This is a critical problem as it gives OT network managers a false sense of security – since a large amount of network traffic is not analyzed. This simply can’t be left to chance. In order for an OT Security platform to be effective, it must be able to collect and analyze 100% of all the packets that go through the network and be 100% sure that the network is safe.
In order for manufacturing companies, critical infrastructure organizations and building management systems (BMS) to maintain the highest levels of OT cyber security readiness, they must be proactive in implementing a highly rated OT security solution.
The SCADAfence Platform provides continuous network monitoring, is quick to deploy, and has the fewest false positives of any currently available solution.
To learn more about how the SCADAfence Platform can help increase your organization's OT cyber security posture, request a demo.