Critical issues regarding operational technology security

Industrial operating systems remain a target for cybercriminals, and 93 percent of all companies with operational technology have experienced intruders in the past year. There are also gaps and areas for improving industrial safety. This is according to Foritnet’s 2022 State of Operational Technology and Cybersecurity Report, based on global research.

Due to the lack of a central overview of OT environments, security risks are increasing. According to Fortinet’s report, only 13% of all respondents provided a central overview of all OT activities. In addition, only 52% of all organizations are able to monitor these processes from their Security Operations Center (SOC). Despite this, 97% of all global organizations believe that operational technology contributes moderately to significant security risks across the enterprise. The research results presented in the report clearly indicate that the lack of a central overview increases the safety risks around OT environments.

OT-related security incidents have a major impact on an organization’s productivity and bottom line. According to Fortinet’s report, 93% of all organizations with OT environments have experienced at least one successful intrusion attempt within the last 12 months. 78% had to deal with three uninvited guests. Nearly half of all affected organizations experienced a loss of productivity due to downtime. In 90%, process recovery took hours or days. One third of the respondents experienced loss of revenue, loss of data, compliance problems or image damage as a result.

There is no consistent responsibility for OT safety in business. According to Fortinet’s report, the management of OT security for professionals falls into a number of different roles. In most cases, these are directors or managers. Only 15% of respondents say that CISO is responsible for OT security in their organization.

OT security is steadily improving, but many organizations still have security holes. When asked about the maturity level of their OT safety, only 21% of all organizations said they had reached level 4. Organizations at this level use orchestration and safety management solutions. Interestingly, a higher percentage of respondents in Latin America and Asia-Pacific reached level 4. More than 70% of all organizations are halfway through their journey to mature OT security. At the same time, they are struggling to use various tools for OT security, creating additional security holes. According to the report, the vast majority of organizations use solutions from two to eight suppliers to protect their industrial equipment. They have between 100 and 10,000 units in use, which only increases the complexity.

With OT systems increasingly becoming a target for cybercriminals, C-level executives are beginning to see the need to better secure their OT environments in order to reduce business risks. Industrial systems have become a major risk factor as they are no longer hermetically separated from IT environments and corporate networks, as was the case in the past. These infrastructures are now being integrated globally.

The emergence of increasingly sophisticated cyber threats makes connected OT systems particularly vulnerable. This gives industrial safety a greater role in the risk portfolio of many organizations. OT security represents a growing concern for management. This increases the need for organizations to move towards a solution that provides integrated protection of their industrial operating systems and supervisory control and data collection systems (SCADA).

OT safety best practice

The 2022 edition of Fortinets State of Operational Technology and Cybersecurity Report outlines ways in which organizations can address vulnerabilities in OT systems to enhance security. This is possible, among other things, by taking the following measures:

  • Use zero trust access (ZTA) to prevent security incidents† More and more industrial systems are being connected to the corporate network. ZTA solutions ensure that users, devices, and applications cannot access business-critical assets without proper login credentials and permissions. These solutions strengthen OT security by providing additional protection against both external attacks and insider threats.
  • Implement solutions that provide centralized monitoring of OT activities† Centralized, integrated overview of all OT processes is the key to increased security. According to Fortinet’s report, organizations that succeeded in rejecting uninvited guests in the past year (6% of respondents) were three times more likely to have a centralized view than respondents who experienced security incidents.
  • Consolidate security tools from different vendors† To eliminate complexity and provide a centralized overview of all equipment, companies need to integrate their OT and IT security technology so that they can settle for fewer solutions from different vendors. By implementing integrated security solutions, they can reduce their attack surface and improve enterprise security.
  • Take advantage of technology for managing network access. Most organizations that managed to keep uninvited guests out of their network in the past year used role-based access control (RBAC). This technology ensures that only authorized persons can access business-critical systems.

Securing OT environments with Fortinet Security Fabric

For more than a decade, Fortinet has protected OT environments in critical infrastructure sectors such as energy, defense, manufacturing, food and transportation. By securing complex infrastructure with Fortinet Security Fabric, organizations effectively ensure that their OT environment is protected and in compliance with laws and regulations. With full integration and shared threat intelligence, industry organizations receive fast, automated responses to attacks across all components. Fortin’s security fabric spans the entire converged IT-OT network to close OT security holes, providing complete visibility and simplified management.

John Maddison, Executive Vice President of Products and CMO at Fortinet: “This year’s State of OT and Cybersecurity Report make it clear that while security in OT environments is a top priority for management, there are still critical security holes. Programmable logic controllers without built-in security, a relentless stream of intrusion attempts, OT processes and the increasing interconnection of OT environments are some of the critical issues organizations need to address.Security integrated into OT network infrastructure, including switches and access points and firewalls, is crucial to segmenting the environment.This, combined with a platform, spanning OT, converged OT / IT and IT, providing end-to-end visibility and control. “

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