Published Date: 08 February 2022

Top 5 Challenges Faced By OT Cybersecurity Solutions

Cyberattacks on industrial targets and key infrastructure will become commonplace in 2021. It was the year when the public – and especially the C-suite – understood the distinction between IT and OT networks, thanks to the Colonial Pipeline assault and the most recent Transnet compromise. And everyone learned that OT cybersecurity flaws could have far-reaching effects that impact us all. Manufacturers and essential infrastructure utilities will face similar challenges in 2022. And it's because of this perspective that understanding the distinctions between OT and IT cybersecurity – and why present OT cybersecurity models are still failing – is more critical than ever.IT cybersecurity focuses on protecting bits and bytes, which are critical for its administrative operations. On the other hand, OT cybersecurity is concerned with protecting both data and physical systems. In 2021, OT network stakeholders discovered how critical it is to select a cybersecurity strategy tailored to the demands of the OT environment - one created from the bottom up to address OT concerns. In the recently published 2022 OT Cybersecurity Survey, we questioned 200 CISOs from prominent industrial firms if they believe their current cybersecurity solutions provide them with the best value. Many of the people who responded said they aren't. Why do current OT security models fall short of their goals? Let's look at it more closely.

Deep Dive: Top Five Reasons Existing OT-Cybersecurity Paradigms Fail

The top five reasons why existing OT-cybersecurity solutions fail to deliver the desired value, according to our survey respondents, are: "lack of skills to operate" (57 percent), "mitigation actions are not feasible" (49 percent), "creates huge alert fatigue" (44 percent), "too complicated to use" (33 percent), and "effective only for post-breach detection" (33 percent). But, in the real world, what do these replies mean?

Inadequate operating skills.

According to our poll, the VP/Head of Manufacturing/Engineering – not a cybersecurity professional – is in charge of OT cybersecurity at 31% of organizations. On the other hand, OT-cybersecurity systems of the first generation were built for the IT (i.e., corporate) context and then retrofitted for OT. As a result, they need a unique skill set that is essentially non-existent on the OT side, although present in the IT SOC. As a result, OT cybersecurity products are frequently built or administered improperly, resulting in inadequate protection.

Mitigation steps are not viable.

Many systems identify possible hazards but merely provide theoretical or ambiguous guidance on dealing with them. Others offer elaborate playbooks that don't apply to the OT. Let's take the concept of "patching" as an example. Patching security in OT is considerably different from patching security in IT. Because repairing OT components necessitates complete shutdowns, which interrupt production, OT network providers seldom, if ever, patch their components. Patching is virtually always impractical as part of any OT mitigation scheme. When a breach is found, mitigation actions must be very thorough, transparent, and individually applicable to each environment for industrial or critical infrastructure workers, who typically operate without a full-fledged staff of security experts or analysts on-site.

Creates a significant amount of alert fatigue.

Most of today's OT solutions rely on detecting possible cyber intrusions and alerting security stakeholders. Even the greatest detection tools, however, send many alerts on purpose, preferring to err on the side of caution. To make problems worse, most OT security paradigms rely on several different solutions, each with its own set of alarm thresholds. It's not uncommon to have several different systems sending out alerts about the same occurrence from different portions of the network. As a result of this 'alert fatigue,' attackers might go unnoticed for long periods, and security personnel cannot focus only on true important dangers rather than false positives.

Too difficult to use

Many OT cybersecurity solutions are retrofitted IT solutions, as previously stated. They don't quite match OT-specific processes or procedures, requiring thorough OT and IT expertise for their operators to "make sense" of it. Unfortunately, as we have stated, the OT industry is already suffering from a skills shortage, leaving many traditional OT systems useless.

It's only effective for post breach detection.

The majority of existing OT security solutions rely on reactive post-breach detection. While post-attack detection and mitigation are crucial components of total cybersecurity, they are typically more expensive and ineffective than attack prevention.
Unlike business IT, the OT environment has no tolerance for downtime. It might take days or even weeks to get a production floor back online once it has been shut down, resulting in significant financial losses. And the penalty isn't just monetary: successful breaches may put operators' and workers' health (and occasionally their lives) in jeopardy.

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