2019 OT Security Summary & 2020 Predictions

As the ritual dictates with every end of a year, we try to look back on the past year’s achievements as well as try to foresee what the future holds, or at least predict how the technology landscape will evolve over the next 12 months. Below is my summary of 2019 and my predictions for what 2020 holds for us.

In 2019, SCADAfence has more than tripled in size with a 500% rise in revenues and establishing global operations with activities in over 10 new geo-locations, including countries in APAC, US and LATAM. Our rapid expansion is a direct response to the awareness and the rush to secure Operational Technology (OT) networks that are the foundations of critical utilities and manufacturing plants. As a testament to this growing need for OT security, we’ve signed up over 20 new channels in the last 12 months and grown our product offering to the extent that we’ve been successful at replacing competing vendors in several accounts.

This success can be predominantly attributed to our technology superiority when it comes to our (higher) detection rates using our DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) engine and our proven lower false positives. Additionally, we’ve launched some groundbreaking features such as our governance dashboard, which allows our users to benefit from central monitoring of their remote sites’ adherence to industry frameworks and regulations, such as IEC 62443NIST and others.

scadafence’s rapid growth throughout 2019 may also be attributed to the ever-changing threat landscape as threat actors continuously evolve to target OT infrastructure. Threat actors include financially motivated ransomware gangs and state-sponsored players such as the Iranian hacker group, APT33, which is now known to be targeting US manufacturing plants, energy grid operators and oil refineries. Repeated attacks from threat actors sponsored by nation states have prompted fears not only of significant physical damage and economic disruption in 2020, but also of the increased possibility of all out cyber warfare.


The Cyber Security Challenges of Industrial Facilities

scadafence’s rapid global expansion is evidence of the fact that concerns about crippling cyber-attacks on critical utilities and industries are not confined to the US, with cyber-attacks exploiting vulnerabilities in facilities such as power stations and factories being reported in the UK, Germany, Latin America and elsewhere. 

Industrial facilities around the world are now faced with the task of directing their cybersecurity resources where they will be most effective. There could be millions of vulnerabilities in any given network, which often makes it difficult for OT and IT security teams to prioritize or respond to cyber events within their networks. 

The mounting number of assaults on OT networks now taking place coincides with the increasing rollout of 5G networks and the extension of the IoT (Internet of Things) devices into industrial facilities. Our new platform, SCADAfence 6.0, ensures that these constantly expanding security perimeters are thoroughly protected in production environments.


Innovations in Governance & Compliance

SCADAfence Platform 6.0 also represents a truly innovative approach to governance and compliance, enabling the IT and audit departments to centrally define and monitor the organization’s adherence to company policies and to OT-related standards and regulations such as IEC 62443 and the NIST framework. Configured and managed centrally, the feature provides a cross-organizational compliance dashboard. It measures compliance and monitors the progress made over time across distributed sites, and includes support for incremental, time-based changes. The governance feature enables CISOs to plan their cybersecurity strategy, as well as to report and measure their organizational compliance based on the actual data derived from the networks.


“By integrating SCADAfence into our environment we were

finally able to add OT visibility and monitoring to our

ongoing security operations.”

Halil Aydin, IT Infrastructure and Operations Director of Vestel.


Founding the OT Cyber Security Alliance (OTCSA)

In order to meet the rapidly growing global threat posed by a growing array of highly sophisticated threat actors, and to build industry best practices to dealing with thee threats, SCADAfence, along with ABB, Microsoft, Fortinet and others, founded the Operational Technology Cyber Security Alliance (OTCSA) in October of this year. 

The OTCSA aims to radically improve the cyber-physical risk posture of OT environments and interfaces for OT/IT interconnectivity. The alliance advises OT suppliers on secure OT system architectures, relevant interfaces and security functionalities. In addition, it also guides OT operators on how best to protect their OT infrastructure, based on a risk management process and reference architectures/designs which are demonstrably compliant with regulations and international standards – such as IEC 62443, NERC CIP and NIST 800-53.


Looking Forward Into 2020

In 2020, the OT security sector is set to grow rapidly with over half of utilities currently expecting an attack on critical infrastructure within the next year. According to a recent report compiled by Siemens and the Ponemon Institute, “Caught in the Crosshairs: Are Utilities Keeping Up with the Industrial Cyber Threat?”, sophisticated cyber-attacks are a top challenge for 64% of respondents, with 54% expecting an attack on critical infrastructure within the next 12 months. Only 42% of respondents rated their cyber readiness as high, and only 31% rated readiness to respond to or contain a breach as high.

The urgency with which utilities and manufacturing plants must now address their cybersecurity shortfalls will result not only in rapid market growth but also mean that customer organizations’ decision-making processes will become far more rapid in 2020. In order to facilitate the rapid implementation of effective security, it will also be paramount that OT and IT departments bridge any historic communications gaps and start to communicate clearly with one another. To that end, I believe we will be seeing substantial growth not only with new customer’s adoption but also extending local implementations to the corporate level. And, far more collaboration between IT and OT.

During 2020, the rollout of 5G networks will also start to impact the industrial space with the new higher-speed wireless networks being used instead of wires and cables as well as enabling a new generation of wireless-enabled robotics. This will bring massive new security challenges, as will the ever-expanding IoT networks. Providing critical infrastructures and manufacturing facilities with full 360-degree, 365 days-a-year security throughout 2020 and beyond will also mean increased and closer collaboration between security vendors as the adoption of new standards and regulations rises.

Given the pressing need to implement and monitor a whole new raft of security measures before more breaches occur means features, such as ease of use, simple speedy implementation and ultimately risk reduction will also be a key factor to successful deployments of security controls within OT environments. 

I’d like to end with a high note and wish all of our customers, employees, and partners a great new year and happy holidays. 

Elad Ben-Meir is CEO of SCADAfence, the global technology leader in OT security.