OT systems are logically segmented and closed systems. This article will explain the basics of OT security, how air-gapped and closed systems work, and how to implement least privilege policies. In this article, we will discuss the three main types of OT networks, and how to create them. OT networks are essential to manufacturing operations and many industries. They ensure that everything operates at optimal efficiency.
Operational technology is an integral part of modern society. Invisible yet essential, OT systems manage specific steps in the manufacturing process. Ladder logic controls these devices. A single command may turn a cutting tool, pick up a part, or change an angle to make another cut. Ladder logic can be as simple as a single command or as complex as thousands of commands strung together. Here are the basic concepts of OT networks.
OT systems typically run conventional commodity operating systems and perform a range of functions. They may even perform historian server functions, generating data for enterprise data collection. These devices may also include specialized networking equipment, including industrial firewalls. These specialized devices may run their own proprietary embedded operating systems. In addition to the basic principles of OT networks, they are increasingly being integrated with IT systems to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Here are some of the most important principles for securing OT systems:
OT systems are closed
IT networks rely on the capabilities to discover assets and configure them remotely. Unfortunately, OT systems are often built without even the most basic IT security requirements, leaving them vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Moreover, most companies rely on OT vendors for these systems, which can lead to vendor lock-in and reducing their ability to implement security fixes. Moreover, many OT systems are part of critical national infrastructures. As a result, proper security measures are essential to ensure continuous availability of these networks.
The traditional OT was a closed and air-gapped environment that was not connected to digital technologies and external networks. This situation has changed with the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, also known as Industry 4.0. Many companies participating in this revolution have implemented new digital solutions to improve productivity, automate processes, add “smart” devices, and share data. However, this transformation is not complete until both IT and OT networks are fully integrated.
OT systems are air-gapped
Air-gapped OT networks are designed to prevent malicious code from getting onto the network. The traditional approach to air-gap used in electronic equipment has limitations that can’t be circumvented by OT networks. However, the widespread use of wireless components has eliminated this protective measure. In addition to disabling USB ports, OT networks should also have Faraday cages to prevent electromagnetic leakage. For true air-gapping, it’s important to eliminate all electromagnetic leakage, which can be done by blocking thermal channels, cloaking LED light pulses, or securing wireless access points.
In theory, air-gapped OT networks make perfect sense. However, practical constraints make this impossible in practice. Besides, in many cases, operators must still transfer external files into the network. This can result in problems if the systems are no longer supported by their original manufacturers. Air-gapped networks are not compatible with agent-based solutions. This article explains the reasons why an OT network may be vulnerable to attack.
OT systems are logically segmented
Traditional division of OT units into different networks requires manual switch-unique configuration, which is a very time-consuming process. By using network segmentation, these systems can be protected from malicious attacks and prevent downtime. However, the process is not as simple as it sounds. To prevent network attacks, it is best to separate the OT systems from the IT network. Moreover, network segmentation can also protect against industrial espionage.
One method of separating OT and IT workloads is the Purdue Reference Model, which categorizes workloads into different layers. This model is widely adopted as a reliable guideline for separating and distributing workloads across networks. In fact, the U.S. government’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency recommends segmenting networks using the Purdue Reference Model. This model is based on the Purdue reference model and takes into account the modernization of ICS networks.
OT systems are networked
Industrial equipment (OT) is now being networked in many different ways, from home health products to on-site medical devices. The sheer number of devices connected over the internet makes securing these networks a major challenge. These devices are comprised of various device types, including servers, workstations, firewalls, diodes, relays, cameras, I/O devices, backup power supplies, and remote terminal units.
OT systems often use outdated operating systems that lack security and patchability. As a result, OT systems can be vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Additionally, many large manufacturing environments lack transparency of IT, resulting in unexplained vulnerabilities and insecure communication between devices. Several manufacturers choose to equip their machinery with internet connections to provide services. While these systems are typically networked, they can be vulnerable to hacking due to their outdated software or outdated operating systems.
OT systems are connected
IT and OT systems are intertwined and increasingly rely on the same security measures. While some industries restrict remote access to their OT systems, remote access is critical to most industrial organizations. Many OT systems are “air-gapped,” which refers to the outdated notion that no external connection to the internet is possible. However, this concept was rarely applied to OT networks. As the IIoT enables greater integration and remote access, the term “air-gapped” has lost much of its meaning.
While traditional OT has been air-gapped, today’s modern automobile is equipped with a myriad of electronic devices. Many of these devices are programmed to run a variety of functions, including controlling a cutting tool, picking up a part, and changing the angle of a machine for another cut. In addition to computer-controlled machines and networks, OT systems may be equipped with specialized networking equipment, including industrial firewalls that manage traffic using proprietary protocols.
OT systems can be built upon high-value OT assets
Often, OT systems and devices are notoriously fragile and vulnerable to attack. Even benign processes can compromise them. With a secure asset management system, OT systems can be built on these assets and provide the data and insight necessary to make changes in a secure manner. This article will discuss some of the benefits of OT asset management solutions and how they can benefit your organization. Here are three of them.
Security: OT asset management solutions provide security assurance by combining data from multiple sources, including network devices, SCADA historians, security agents, and device management tools. A complete view of assets makes it easier for security analysts and operators to prioritize the risk associated with a cyber event. There are several different ways to gather this inventory. Most organizations use manual processes and spreadsheets, while others combine procedural and technical methods. Moreover, some companies use technologies that communicate directly with assets to gather information.
OT systems are monitored remotely
OT systems are the computerized equipment that keeps vital infrastructure operating. For instance, a ransomware attack shut down the Colonial Pipeline, which transports 2.5 million barrels of fuel per day. This resulted in a shortage of fuel along the East Coast. While operational technologies are typically associated with industrial equipment, they can also include any special-purpose computerized equipment. This article will discuss the benefits of OT systems.
In the past, most OT devices were separated from the Internet and most internal networks. As a result, only a select group of employees had access to them. Today, more OT systems are being monitored and controlled through IT systems. Traditional OT devices had physical panels and required workers to manually input commands. With today’s advanced technology, many OT systems can be controlled remotely over the Internet. To avoid this problem, companies can implement VPN connections.
OT systems are controlled remotely
OT refers to systems and equipment that control the physical world. The most common types of OT are industrial control systems. These systems control processes and monitor industrial equipment. These systems are used in numerous industries, including waste control, telecommunications, and water and wastewater. PLCs are the main components of many OT systems. They process data and control the operating temperature and productivity of machines. They can also trigger alarms or stop processes if necessary.
Most OT systems were traditionally isolated from the internet and most internal networks, and were only accessible to a limited number of authorized employees. However, in recent years, OT systems have become more accessible through IT systems. Traditional OT devices only had physical panels, requiring workers to input commands. With the rise of IoT systems and the use of remote management, these devices can now be accessed and controlled remotely. For example, by connecting to an industrial control system via the internet, a partner can access equipment and monitor processes without having to physically go to the facility.
OT systems can be built upon IIoT devices
OT systems have traditionally been isolated and inflexible. Their operating systems and protocols were proprietary and often not based on the same technology and applications used by the enterprise. They also had limited access to the internet and remained completely disconnected from the corporate network. During the last two decades, however, the separation between IT and OT has been rapidly dissolving. Today’s OT environment features IT networking equipment and commodity hardware, which makes them an excellent fit for IIoT initiatives.
OT systems can be built upon IIot devices to control specific steps in manufacturing processes. These systems are typically controlled by a “ladder logic,” which is a set of commands that can include changing the angle of a cutting tool and picking up a part. Ladder logic can be as simple as a few commands, or as complex as thousands of commands strung together. In some cases, OT systems can be a component of an ICS.