What is Operational Technology (OT)?
Operational Technology (OT) is programmable software and hardware that interacts with (or manages devices that interact with) the physical environment. These systems are; They detect changes through direct monitoring and/or control of devices, processes and events.
The definition of OT was created to show the technological and functional differences between traditional information technology (IT) systems and industrial control systems and is also described as "IT in non-carpeted areas".
Today, as a natural consequence of the spread of digital transformation (Industry 4.0) and the transfer of business processes to the digital environment, security attacks on IT systems have increased. In terms of cybersecurity, companies generally tend to focus on information technologies and primarily aim to protect their IT infrastructure, which has become the main target of cyber attacks, but they forget to protect their OT systems. However, lately, it has been observed that cyber attacks that affect operational technology and IoT (Internet of Things) devices are increasingly continuing. These attacks threaten the protection and survival of businesses and cause data breaches, disruption of normal business processes and significant disruptions to industrial control systems.
Examples of operational technology include the following industrial control systems (ICS) and environments:
- Programmable logic controllers (PLC)
- Supervisory control and data acquisition systems (SCADA)
- Distributed control systems (DCS)
- Remote terminal units (RTU)
- Computer numerical control (CNC) systems, including computerized machine tools
- Scientific equipment (eg digital oscilloscope)
- Building management systems (BMS) and building automation systems (BAS)
- Indoor and outdoor lighting controls
- Energy monitoring, safety and security systems
- Transportation systems
- Interconnected environments created by the Internet of Things (IoT)
Operational technology is used in many industries and settings, for example:
Energy, Chemistry, Logistics, Transportation, Food and beverage, Pharmaceutical, Food, Manufacturing, Automotive, Oil and gas, Mining, Smart cities, Water (treatment, waste management), Building management and automation systems.
Operational Technology Cyber Security
The current OT security approach is quite different from the IT security approach. OT focuses on uptime and availability, while IT focuses on protecting data.
OT environments use proprietary communication protocols and therefore do not have standardized security tools and technologies such as antivirus, firewall, data loss prevention and attack detection/prevention systems, endpoint protection software in IT. OT assets, on the other hand, have a much longer lifecycle than IT equipment (a device can be used for 20 years or more), and security considerations will naturally be different.
Challenges affecting the security of OT systems include:
- OT components are often created without considering core IT security requirements and instead aim to achieve functional goals. These components can be insecure by design and vulnerable to cyber attacks.
- Due to the general lack of knowledge about industrial automation, most companies are heavily dependent on OT vendors.
- Due to the role of OT in monitoring and controlling critical industrial process, OT systems are often part of national critical infrastructures and may require advanced security features.
What Should Be Done to Protect Operational Technology?
It is no longer realistic to assume that the security measures implemented by IT teams will also protect the organization's OT infrastructure. In order to understand the risks of cyber attacks in the field of operational technologies and to protect against these risks, OT environments should be made more resilient against cyber attacks.
For this purpose, it has become mandatory for companies to make assignments to be responsible for the security of OT environments. There is a strong focus on topics such as IT/OT collaboration or alignment in modern industrial environments. Close collaboration between IT and OT departments is critical for companies, resulting in increased effectiveness in many areas of OT and IT systems (such as change management, incident management, and security standards).
On the other hand, security isolation between OT and IT environments should be ensured and they should be prevented from affecting each other. In addition, when choosing equipment for infrastructures, it is important to consider cyber security with functionality in order to create safe environments.
One of the most important tools in ensuring the security of OT environments is the use of software/hardware platforms created for this purpose.
You may not know how secure your systems are until a real attack is made, and instead of taking on the risks of a malicious attack, you can learn about your security vulnerabilities by taking the OT Cyber Security Service offered by Center On Digital Bilişim Hizmetleri A.Ş., which develops innovative solutions to defeat developing cyber threats. You can reduce your risks in this area.