Most manufacturing executives are under constant pressure to cut costs, reduce scrap, lower machine downtime, and improve ‘Overall Equipment Effectiveness’ (OEE). For many organizations, operational technology (OT) is at the heart of achieving these goals.
Despite this, OT adoption and optimization has proven difficult for many companies. The primary barrier? OT network security. The OT environment poses unique challenges that few know how to navigate confidently, preventing many companies from implementing an approach that significantly improves overall performance.
From identifying the reasons for rising OT adoption to explaining how to develop a solid OT security strategy, here is what manufacturing executives need to know about OT network security.
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The Rise of OT in Manufacturing
The operational technology (OT) market has grown rapidly in recent years, and data indicates that the upward curve will only become steeper. The value of the global OT market jumped from $140.6 in 2021 to a forecasted $157.9 in 2022, a 12% year-over-year increase — and the market is expected to grow another 65% by 2027 to reach $232B.
At least four factors are driving this acceleration: increasing awareness of OT among senior management, widespread shortages, technological maturity, and development of effective approaches to OT security.
- C-suite visibility: The potential of Industry 4.0 or “Smart Factory” technology has been discussed for years. Stories about the outstanding results of early adopters have been gaining a lot of attention. Companies are now making more room in their budgets for OT initiatives.
- Widespread shortages: The global pandemic has created a supply chain, material sourcing, and labor market crunch, forcing manufacturers to increase production efficiency and cut costs. These pressures are forcing organizations to improve their operations’ efficiencies with high-impact digital technologies..
- Technological maturity: While OT was initially more hype than real-world technology, recent advancements in the space have established its practicality. These improvements include faster application deployments, shorter and less disruptive deployment cycles, and lower capital investment requirements. In addition, equipment modernization has made the machinery “OT friendly”.
- Effective OT security: OT security has also matured significantly and can now handle many challenges that were previously preventing pervasive adoption. With these new approaches, manufacturing equipment does not have to be air-gapped, and legacy devices can be secured.
It is clear that OT has a significant impact on the safety, efficiency, and productivity of manufacturers. But organizations cannot realize those benefits without a robust security strategy.
How to Create an Effective OT Network Security Strategy
The complexity of OT creates unique operational difficulties, implementation challenges, and ongoing equipment support requirements. While IT and OT may share some technical components, the standard cybersecurity playbook does not directly transfer from one to the other. Security teams must understand the differences between these environments and carefully apply only the right elements.
The following best practices will help manufacturers develop an effective OT network security strategy.
Create Organizational Support
Like any major initiative, it is critical to achieving buy-in across the organization. This process involves clearly communicating with and building support among a long list of key contributors and decision-makers, including executives, board members, IT, cybersecurity, OT, plant floor operators, supervisors, vendor management, and more. As you work to cultivate consensus, you must also define fundamentals like roles and responsibilities, governance structure, and compliance policies.
Build Your Security Plan
A comprehensive security plan will account for all the back-doors, easy exploits, and other methods malicious actors could use to compromise an OT network. It will also outline logical and efficient day-to-day network and security administration processes. For instance, plant operators should not have to go through multiple levels of support to install a new machine, move the equipment to a new zone, or decommission it.
Map Out Your Inventory
Another critical step is determining what assets need to be secured and the order in which they need to be secured. While it would be ideal to cover the entire OT attack surface at once, most manufacturers have to stage the rollout for the transition to be practical. As it is in other areas of OT security, this prioritization needs to be determined by the relative impact on safety.
Secure Your Network and Devices
Simplicity is essential to effective OT network security. This means working to make machine and data access protocols consistent across the enterprise and as straightforward as possible. It also means minimizing the attack surface by hardening your OT network and devices.
Third-party access is another important consideration, as any good solution should have this built-in. If it is not, your OT security execution will rapidly become unsustainably complex.
Finally, research how Zero Trust and microsegmentation are properly implemented in OT environments. One of the leading developers of Zero Trust microsegmentation solutions for industrial control systems, Byos helps manufacturers protect their critical assets against threats, vulnerabilities, and attacks. To learn more about how to enhance your organization's OT security posture, contact Byos here.
Secure Your Data
While your vendors and application providers are primarily responsible for this security layer, that does not mean you should trust the vendors to tell you everything you need. Instead, take some time to develop a comprehensive set of questions and a list of requirements according to your own data security standards and vet your partners against them.
Implement and Iterate
With these best practices, organizations are advised to crawl before walking (or walk before you running if you’ve already started your initiative). Achieving a robust OT network security posture is an iterative process. So, like on the manufacturing floor, you must test, evaluate, and retest each stageof your strategy — with your aim fixed on continuous improvement.
Finding OT Network Security Partners
Security concerns have stopped some manufacturers from moving forward with OT initiatives, but the security-related barriers to adoption have been largely addressed. Organizations that understand the environment's unique challenges, research IT/OT security best practices, and that deploy well thought-out OT network security technologies have overcome these challenges.
Byos has become essential to the OT network security strategy of forward thinking, results-oriented manufacturing organizations. The Byos Secure Edge uses microsegmentation and isolation to secure ICS devices and both internally as well as securely enabling third-party and remote access. With Byos, manufacturing professionals are able to support legacy systems and devices that are not able to accept an agent while delegating day-to-day administration to operations engineers without the need for extensive cybersecurity and IT training or knowledge.
To learn more about how you can start making meaningful improvements to your OT security, get in touch with one of our experts.