In ICS-driven industries such as energy, manufacturing, and transportation, there has been a surge in the convergence of IT and OT. This shift has been fueled mainly by the increasingly important role of data processing and insights, as well as the integration of new technologies. According to Lisa Levy at Smart Industry, “96% of manufacturing companies are now embracing at least one next-generation technology,” and “77% of manufacturers [are] integrating cloud solutions.” As this trend continues and more operators intertwine their IT and OT systems, there are benefits, challenges, and practices to keep in mind.
IT/OT Convergence and Cybersecurity
First and foremost, it’s essential to emphasize that IT/OT convergence and cybersecurity are deeply connected. Although convergence significantly streamlines operations, it does open facilities up to greater cybersecurity risk. While OT has become a key target for threat actors, a compromised IT system can affect all other systems associated with it. Additionally, it can be quite complex to handle interconnected devices and legacy protocols. Tie those all together, and you have a widespread issue.
Therefore, Dark Reading points out that taking an “’assume breach’ mindset” is critical. In other words, organizations should run operations as if they could be interrupted by a cyberattack at any moment. Luckily, that perspective is gaining traction. Gartner previously summarized that 81% of leaders have now surpassed the cyber awareness phase to the proactive monitoring phase. In making this move, Calvin Henrick at BizTech Magazine writes, “IT and OT leaders should work together to develop a multilayered security strategy that includes tools such as firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and endpoint security solutions.” One such solution that is highly recommended in the proactive cybersecurity phase is zero-trust. In fact, the Biden administration has called on the government to adopt zero-trust mandates.
Zero-Trust and IT/OT Convergence
In incorporating a zero-trust strategy, two foundational elements are having a comprehensive library of asset inventory and a culture that is willing to uphold security as a priority. At DYNICS, we help operators to take stock of the systems that they already have in place and how those systems can be adjusted to the new IT/OT and cybersecurity landscape.
We come in with tools that provide comprehensive visibility, which is a key part of the zero-trust process. We also come in with specific OT knowledge. That is particularly important when discussing adapting zero-trust to an IT/OT environment because IT-first products are oftentimes ineffective in OT-based spaces. By having a keen understanding of OT needs, we help facilitate the dialogue that is necessary in successfully converging the two networks.
As a just released warning from CISA demonstrates, threat actors – in this case the group Volt Typhoon – are using the ‘Living off the Land’ approach to gain persistence on the IT network of critical infrastructure companies. Therefore, protection of the OT assets is also essential, and the question of how to properly fund and configure such actions is being presented to senior leadership and company’ boards. This only makes the call for OT vendors louder. By designing with block by default at the core, and a specific expertise in OT and cybersecurity, DYNICS provides robust protection and safeguards operational continuity. This strategy is the heart of what will keep a converged facility with zero-trust ambitions aligned.
- “Tailoring OT-IT convergence for enhanced data access, management” – Lisa Levy, Smart Industry
- “Surmount the Security Risks of IT-OT Convergence” – Calvin Henrick, BizTech Magazine
- “Zero Trust Keeps Digital Attacks From Entering the Real World” – Trevor Dearing, Dark Reading
- “PRC State-Sponsored Actors Compromise and Maintain Persistent Access to U.S. Critical Infrastructure” – Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency