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Ordr’s See, Know, Secure Approach to Connected Device Security is Ideal for CPS Protection


As IT estates and their attack surfaces grow in complexity, cyber-physical systems (CPS) are getting more attention from cyber security professionals. Because organizations across all verticals  are adopting CPS to run operations more efficiently, connected devices are becoming more and more abundant. Some reports predict the number of Internet of Things (IoT), Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and other emerging specialized (XIoT) devices that populate sprawling corporate networks will exceed 24 billion by 2030. Those devices represent a critical interface between traditional IT and the hyper-connected sensors, controls, and other operational technologies (OT) comprising CPS these days.

Our own Chris Westphal blogged about cyber-physical systems recently, offering some background on what they are and identifying some of the security challenges associated with protecting them. A newly updated report by Gartner, 3 Initial Steps to Address Unsecure Cyber-Physical Systems, goes into more detail to help organizations struggling to understand their CPS infrastructure and establish a strategy to keep their CPS secure.

Threat Actors are Aggressive

The report makes it clear that threat actors are aggressively exploiting vulnerabilities inherent with CPS technologies and the threat to those organizations unprepared to defend them. In fact, Microsoft recently uncovered a “a sophisticated attack campaign” targeting IoT devices, while other new security research suggests malware targeting IoT devices has increased 700% since 2020.

As IT and OT converge, cybersecurity leaders need to identify their attack surface across both environments. Gartner’s report cites examples of attacks against organizations in healthcare, critical infrastructure, manufacturing, and public utilities illustrate the risks beyond cyber with potential impact  to individuals, public safety and economic stability, and serve as a warning to organizations relying on traditional IT security approaches. The report’s author, Gartner analyst Kattell Thielemann, puts it this way:

“Business-led Internet of Things or converged OT-IT projects have largely underestimated or ignored security and safety risks. Security and risk management leaders must go beyond data security by embracing cyber-physical system security efforts, or they will soon be overwhelmed by new threats.”

“Business-led Internet of Things or converged OT-IT projects have largely underestimated or ignored security and safety risks. Security and risk management leaders must go beyond data security by embracing cyber-physical system security efforts, or they will soon be overwhelmed by new threats.”

A Strategic CPS Security Foundation

That dire warning comes with the promise that, by taking the time to understand CPS infrastructure from a risk management perspective, CSOs, CISOs, and other security leaders can implement effective strategies for protecting those systems. Formulating a CPS security strategy starts by:

  • Prioritizing discovery of all elements of the CPS environment;
  • Anchoring security goals and policies based on insights derived from device data and industry-specific requirements like regulations and threat intelligence; and,
  • Focusing on building maturity into the strategy based on an evolving Zero Trust approach.

Here at Ordr we call it a “See, Know, Secure” model for protecting connected devices, and the capabilities enabled by our platform dovetail well with the needs of organizations with CPS infrastructure. That’s because Ordr quickly discovers all CPS elements operating in the network, including those that were previously unknown or that connect and disconnect outside the control of IT management. This discovery happens in real-time, so there are never any blind spots.

Once discovered, we classify, map communications, analyze behavior, and assign a risk score to each device based on the data in the Ordr Data Lake—the industry’s most complete library of connected device intelligence. Our data lake is populated with millions of individual device profiles, including rich detail on each. We know their deterministic operational parameters, disclosed vulnerabilities, normal communications patterns, and other essential context that allows you to set policy.

A Potent Combination for CPS Protection

That combination of insight and capability supports automated responses whenever indicators of compromise are detected; and that means your network security gaps are identified and closed. Whether a CPS device is the vector, target, or in the path of an attack, Ordr can detect it and either stop it or help contain the spread.

The speed, complexity, and unique technical challenges endemic to cyber-physical systems operations means that legacy security tools and strategies are severely limited when applied to CPS infrastructure. Gartner recommends that CPS security “focus on safety, reliability, resilience, adaptability, and privacy.”

The Ordr platform is ideally suited to address these challenges. To read more about best practices to secure cyber physical systems, download a copy of the Gartner report, Market Guide for CPS Protection Platforms to help you better grasp the complexities and establish a CPS security strategy that meets the needs specific to your organization.

Paradigmatic shifts are often not fully recognized until after they have occurred. Innovations are made, evolutions take place, and then someone realizes, “Hey, this is much different from when it started.” That’s when people start to re-think context and terminologies reflective of the new reality.

Cyber-Physical Systems: A Brief History

That scenario is playing out in the realm of the Internet of Things (IoT) and its permutations like the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Internet of X Things (IoXT) that covers consumer, military, automotive, and other applications of connected technologies, and operational technology (OT). It’s a trend that began back in the 1980s when system-on-chip technology started getting designed into office printers, then adapted to use for industrial equipment, allowing users to manage and monitor machines and office appliances via the organization’s local area network (LAN). When the LAN gave way to public networks, the term “Internet of Things” was coined by MIT’s Kevin Ashton during a proposal to Procter & Gamble in which he suggested using RFID tags to track products moving through the supply chain.

Fast-forward to 2006 when, according to the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine, the term cyber-physical systems was introduced to describe the interplay of digital and analog infrastructure in which “embedded computers monitor and control physical processes, usually with feedback loops, where physical processes affect computations and vice versa.”

Gartner has since adopted the term cyber-physical systems (CPS) to describe the full scope of connected technologies that once seemed arcane but are now not only common, but integral to the digital operations and infrastructure of nearly every enterprise. CPS are therefore the next-generation of integrated physical and cyber systems, and can include IoT, OT, and IoMT assets such as critical infrastructure sensors, surveillance cameras, building management systems, and healthcare devices with embedded systems that interact with the real world as well as with complex software elements. And because of the essential role CPS now plays, the devices comprising CPS assets have introduced new, critical risks to the organizations that have adopted them as a part of their digital transformations.

Managing Risks With Cyber-Physical Systems

That means new challenges for the IT security teams responsible for keeping networks, data, and people safe. In a recent report, Innovation Insight for Cyber-Physical Systems Protection Platforms, Gartner wrote:

“As organizations connect operational or mission-critical systems, or deploy automation and digital transformation technology, they create cyber-physical systems that security and risk management leaders must securely manage. Enter CPS protection platforms — new solutions for a new security reality.”

A cyber-physical systems protection platform is a security solution that automates cyber-physical systems asset discovery, and adds a range of security-related features to improve the risk posture of CPS. Gartner believes that by 2025, “70% of companies will deploy cyber-physical systems protection platforms as the first step in their asset-centric security journey.” As described in the Gartner graphic below, when organizations embrace digital transformation and IT/OT convergence, they will need to move towards an asset-centric view of security.

The Gartner report outlines findings, challenges, and recommendations for organizations confronting their CPS security realities for the first time, describes the risks that unprepared and ill-equipped enterprises face, and requirements for CyberPhysical Protection platforms.

Ordr Addresses Visibility and Security of Cyber-Physical Systems

Fortunately, Ordr offers a CPS protection platform that addresses these risks and makes it easy for organizations to see, know, and secure the devices that have been accruing to their enterprise inventories over the years (as well as those ones they didn’t know were connecting and operating on their infrastructure) — including IT, IoT, and OT. In fact, Ordr is named by Gartner as one of the leading CPS protection platform innovators, focused on addressing the unique, asset-centric approach required to protect connected devices and their infrastructures.

Ordr was engineered for the CPS environment, and delivers many security benefits specific to protecting cyber-physical systems, including:

  • Automated asset discovery and classification to gain an accurate view of your CPS attack surface.
  • Identification of vulnerable devices, malicious communications, and active threats to uncover previously unknown risks.
  • Prioritized remediation and mitigation efforts with risk scores calculated for every asset.
  • Accelerated incident response with dynamically created policy to stop malicious communications and protect devices.
  • Improved security with automated policy for NAC and Zero Trust segmentation.

Download a copy of Gartner’s Market Guide for Cyber-Physical Systems Protection Platform with our compliments, simply follow the link. Or to learn more about the Ordr platform and how we can help you protect your CPS assets, get in touch with us directly.