A Guide to OT Security

In the legacy environment, operational technology (OT) security was heavily reliant on an ”air-gap” configuration, also known as the Purdue Model. OT systems weren’t exposed to the Internet or any internal networks. With the fourth revolution of industry ongoing, this configuration is no longer a viable option for manufacturing industries.

In today’s rapidly changing manufacturing environment and because of digital transformation, OT networks are now connected to IT networks and cloud. OT security now has to consider the wholistic needs of securing both the manufacturing floor and the ‘carpeted IT environment” from cyber attacks. In fact, analysis of recent cyber attacks against manufacturing environments show that the majority of threats are entering through the IT network and devices. As a result, OT and IT security must converge to work together in order to efficiently and comprehensively cover both networks.

What is OT Security?

OT is the use of hardware and software to monitor, maintain, and control the safe operation of manufacturing assets and processes. OT security is about protecting these devices, including Distributed Control Systems (DCS), Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) networks, Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC), and Remoted Processing Units (RPU) that are common in the industrial sectors and for maintaining cyber resiliency.

When OT wasn’t exposed to the IT networks, Internet or the cloud, securing the OT environment that was largely isolated was simpler. Now, OT is part of the same environment IT and facing a threat landscape similar to IT.

OT Security and IT Security Converge

OT and IT are fundamentally different, so it’s no surprise that the previous security measures for OT didn’t include considerations for traditional IT security. The most relevant difference between the two is OT security focuses on securing assets that are part of the manufacturing facilities and process, rather than the digital assets and data of IT security. While OT security is centered around cyber resilience and keeping equipment and processes safe, IT security’s goal is to preserve confidentiality and data integrity.

Both types of security share the same goal of availability, but availability is a much higher priority for the OT sphere. If the components of the OT environment can’t run because they’ve been compromised by a cyberattack, this impacts the business. Consider the possible ramifications of a cyberattack immediately halting a manufacturing process without warning—physical damage to equipment, risk of bodily injury to workers, financial loss, and brand damage. Safety and availability go hand-in-hand in the OT space. And the security level of the IT network that communicates with the OT network directly affects the OT network’s safety and availability.

While the goals of IT security and OT security are different, and traditionally have followed different paths, converging IT and OT security into a cohesive whole has become the new normal. For example, the Colonial Pipeline attack forced 5,550 miles of pipeline to shut down for several days due to a ransomware attack. This ransomware attack on IT systems resulted in an OT impact even though the OT devices weren’t initially targeted. The shutdown was a precaution because the affected IT systems impacted billing.

In addition to the connection to traditional IT networks, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) also factors into the convergence. Smart devices deployed in various industrial environments have helped create the need for IT/OT convergence. Even compliance is converging—any and all networks must be secure and meet a certain compliance threshold. The OT sphere is subject to its own regulations, creating a blending of needs to satisfy compliance frameworks.

IT security and OT security are bound together in the threat landscape because there’s no longer a distinct separation of OT and IT networks. This has led to development of viable OT security solutions that can provide asset visibility into the devices on the OT/IT converged network, monitor for threats and vulnerabilities, implement network segmentation, and maintain compliance while offering scalability.

Importance of OT Security Solutions

OT security is an absolute must. It’s key to securing water treatment, waste management, utilities, manufacturing, and transportation facilities . A cyberattack that results in an OT security incident could have drastic and dire consequences for the company and the public at large. In order to operate safely and maintain optimal availability, a OT security solution should be implemented and maintained.

Visibility and Device Discovery in OT and IT

Asset discovery should be able to passively collect all necessary information on both IT and OT assets for the converged OT/IT network. Taking it a step further, continued visibility into what these discovered devices are communicating with provides a baseline of observed behaviors. This baseline on traffic visibility between OT, IT, and IIoT devices delivers actionable intelligence that can be used to identify anomalies, such as devices communicating outside of baseline to a malicious domain that may be indicative of a cyberattack in progress. Security starts with enterprise-wide visibility to all assets, including their vulnerabilities and behavior coalesced into a single source of truth.

Monitoring

A central OT security tool with monitoring allows a continuous analysis of OT network behavior. Using network behaviors as a guideline helps the system determine friend from foe, and reveals security insights that are critical to evolving measures on the network over time, such as vulnerabilities and weak passwords or certificates. Monitoring also provides logging, reporting, and event management. Because many OT networks are comprised of critical assets, continuous monitoring helps provide enhanced security for those assets.

Control and Compliance

IT/OT convergence has rendered the Purdue Model of layered segmentation inviable. Devices need to be able to communicate, which requires a more flexible version of network segmentation. OT security solutions today provide a modern version of segmentation and control zones. In addition, OT security solutions offer a more secure interface using a multifactor authentication method to implement appropriate user access, and methodical threat detection and remediation, including automated quarantine.

Capabilities of a Strong OT Security Solution

A strong OT security solution should provide detailed asset management, dynamic network segmentation, continuous threat assessment and vulnerability management, assist compliance and governance, and scale to meet business needs.

Identify and Classify Assets

A key piece of asset management is continuous, real-time discovery that doesn’t impact operations. It should provide granular classification of OT, IT, IIoT, and unmanaged devices with comprehensive details. Using visibility across the various network topologies will help illustrate the cyberattack threat surface and designate non-compliant assets. Detailed asset management lowers the number of vulnerable entry points available to threat actors.

Segment the Network

The CrashOverride attack in 2016 manipulated systems that relied upon the “air-gap” concept practiced in the Purdue model by infiltrating the gapped network. As attackers’ methods advance, so too must security practices to prevent incidents. A strong OT security solution delivers dynamic and automated network segmentation with layered zone controls. Using micro-segmentation policies on existing infrastructure limits devices’ ability to communicate, ensuring only authorized devices can do so.

Continuous Behavioral MonitoringThreat/Vulnerability Detection

Continuous monitoring of the behavior or communication flows of devices offers a window into what’s “normal” in the network. Combining behavioral anomalies with threat detection policy-based rules alerts system administrators of an attack before it begins or is in early stages. For example, an early indication of a ransomware attack might be application anomalies, such as SMB or RDP traffic from a targeted and vulnerable device. With continuous monitoring and behavioral analytics, this type of attack would be discovered before damage occurs.

Compliance

OT compliance is always a pivotal concern and consists of a variety of frameworks and regulations. For compliance adherence, an OT security solution should provide in-depth inventory that pertains to ‘where and how’ sensitive regulatory information is stored. Identify devices running legacy systems, as well as devices that are potentially vulnerable, have expired certificates, or display anomalous behaviors. Vulnerable devices must be segmented and only interact with authorized devices and systems. With so many compliance caveats, a strong OT security solution helps facilitate and manage all these moving pieces.

Cyber Resilience and Scalability

OT must have high availability or cyber resilience to prevent financial ramifications or safety concerns. As business requirements change or capacity limits are reached, a solution must be able to expand to accommodate the change in needs. It should be easy to add new devices and sensors to a network without risking an interruption in productivity or system/device availability. Similarly, OT security solutions need to scale as the OT environment scales. Security policies that are in place to secure assets should be applied to new devices as they come onto the network.

Don’t Skip Over OT Security

The convergence of OT and IT has revolutionized OT security into more robust, complex requirements. While it’s beneficial that IT networks communicating with previously “air-gapped” OT networks have expanded the reach of the OT network significantly, it also increases the risk involved and introduces additional compliance concerns. Most cyber threats that affect OT systems enter through the IT space. The traditional Purdue Model can’t keep up with the advances in the cyber threat landscape, which have led to more dynamic and versatile OT security solutions that can protect valuable IT and OT assets, and can deliver segmentation inline with business needs.

In order to provide an adequate level of protection, an OT security solution must be able to work within the IT space and truly bring the IT and OT networks together into one cohesive “single source of truth” system.

Ordr provides a scalable solution to cover the entirety of the newly converged OT-IT network model that includes all the key components:

  • Real-time asset management for OT and IT, including agentless and zero touch discovery

  • Comprehensive traffic visibility and analytics for every single asset

  • Behavioral and policy-based threat detection and remediation

  • Dynamic network segmentation tied to business objectives

  • Layered control zones

  • Governance and compliance capabilities

To learn more about how Ordr can help your enterprise or to request a demo, contact us today.