Operational Technology (OT) facility security has gone from nice-to-have to critical over the last decade,. It is important to understand this sector and how the introduction of tailored Breach Attack Simulation systems is changing OT cybersecurity.

One of the best-kept secrets in the cybersecurity industry is how truly difficult it is to secure operational technologies (OT).

As technology has rapidly advanced across nearly every sector over the last decade, certain sectors are adapting more secure software, physically secured hardware, and nearly impenetrable firewalls. These tech-driven solutions protect trillions of dollars of assets around the globe at any given moment.

Breach Attack Simulation (BAS) systems prepare organizations for worst-case cybersecurity scenarios and are more common in high-tech industries. Every stage of the supply chain has multiple players and vendors that come with their own digital systems. OT facilities outside of high tech, however, are functional first, and cyber-resilient second. Until now, they lacked those systems BAS systems, impeding security upgrades.

Always-on production

Unlike IT networks, Turning these facilities on and off to run attack simulations delays production lines for days or weeks, impacting revenue as well as reputation. New threats obsolete previous simulations, further threatening production.

Cyber teams must manually assess each aspect of each facility to understand weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Questions like “How many vendors need access at each point?”, “What is the authentication process, if any?”, “Is this the best place to assign our resources?”, and ultimately “What is the financial impact if a breach occurs here?”. Industrial networks don’t give you the time to do maintenance or to map all corners for testing digitally. As a result, CISOs have no choice but to do all assessments offline.

Developing OT network visibility

As soon as you scratch the surface of an OT network, the difficulties and complications begin to mount. The now-famous attacks on JBS and the Colonial pipeline have created a hard shift towards acknowledging how crucial it is for businesses to secure their OT facilities. The entry points are numerous, the software are clunky, and the tasks daunting. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

Looking to the SaaS and IT worlds, they run Breach Attack Simulations (BAS) and play out potential cyberattack scenarios. OT-BAS tools mirror networks avoiding impact on the critical production network. This helps the cybersecurity team better understand the multi-layered mesh of software and systems used by various edge devices and numerous vendors. 

Cybersecurity teams can then simulate attacks to understand their impact, identify network vulnerabilities, and address issues that arise in an environment that has no impact on the real-world live network.

OT cybersecurity teams can virtually map out their network, including across multiple facilities, then simulate new attack vectors that are published to test their relevance to their own network as well as test the benefit of the implementation of new solutions to protect their network against such new attacks, all without needing to stop production.

What to Protect?

In OT, just like many other industries, just because you can put in protections, doesn’t mean you should.

OT-BAS simulations must be capable of running automated “what if” simulations giving cybersecurity teams insight into each breach. An understanding of a potential breach in Facility A can prevent millions of dollars in losses from downtime. On the other hand, if Facility B is attacked, it would be an inconvenient bottleneck with minimal impact on operations. These assessments must be conducted regularly, even running simulations to protect against industry attacks that happened just days before. This gives CISOs the peace of mind to move resources to where they matter most while remaining on budget.

Global impact

The last year has put a spotlight on the reliance and delicate nature of global supply chains. Using OT-BAS technology, securing thousands of devices over layers of overlapping software means that our supply lines will remain dependable into the future.

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