Protect Factory Operations with In-Depth OT Security

1. Obtain Initial Buy-in from Key Stakeholders

Securing OT from cyber threats starts with securing buy-in from site stakeholders on program goals. Manufacturing stakeholders will likely need your help overcoming a lack of understanding or awareness about the risks associated with cyber threats in OT environments. You will likely need an awareness campaign tailored to the specific concerns and priorities of the stakeholders. Clearly communicate how cyber threats could disrupt manufacturing operations and the benefits of proactive cybersecurity measures. Success can be measured by the level of engagement and support from both enterprise IT and OT stakeholders, the level of resources allocated for OT security, and the degree to which policies are adapted to strengthen the cyber posture of OT.

2. Select and Implement Monitoring and Detection Tools

Effective monitoring tools are essential for maintaining the integrity of manufacturing networks, enabling early detection, and responding to potential threats. Selecting and implementing the right tools can be challenging given the unique requirements and sensitivities of OT environments. You will need a practical plan to gradually implement OT passive monitoring tools with the goal of minimizing disruption to the manufacturing network and getting the most visibility coverage. Benefits from implementation of these tools can be measured in terms of the visibility gained by both the security operations center (SOC) and site stakeholders, as well as the reduction in mean time to respond to cyber incidents at site. Expanding visibility in the networks should include gaining an understanding of what normal looks like in the environment: Going forward, this baseline will help the team spot and investigate anomalies. 

3. Conduct an Asset Inventory

Developing and keeping a comprehensive asset inventory is essential for understanding and managing the cybersecurity posture of OT assets. This is challenging because it’s hard to integrate disparate sources of asset data from security tools, network data, and the configuration management database (CMDB) into a cohesive, actionable format. Start by using OT passive monitoring tools and automation mechanisms to collect asset data in a central location and with enough fidelity to enable required OT cyber capabilities (e.g., threat analytics and vulnerability management). 

Next, build an OT asset lifecycle process: This will include standards, methods, roles, and workflows needed to formalize requirements for securely onboarding, maintaining, and decommissioning OT assets. Integration of newly collected data with the existing CMDB platform is often needed to enable this new process. With CMDB integrations in place, the last step is to operationalize the asset management process via implementation of change control workflows. Improvement in the OT asset management process can be measured by the completeness and accuracy of the asset inventory and the efficiency of asset management processes. 

4. Consider Industry 4.0 Technologies

Embracing Industry 4.0 technologies offers significant advantages, but it must be done with a focus to enabling security by design and default. The main challenge is embedding cybersecurity into every aspect of product design, supply chain security, and manufacturing:

  • For product design, a cybersecure posture should be considered from the very start of product development. This includes consideration of how a product could potentially be exploited by adversaries and designing features to mitigate those risks. 
  • Suppliers are often weak points in supply chain security, so it's crucial to ensure that all suppliers follow rigorous security practices and provide full transparency about the vulnerability management of their products. 
  • Secure manufacturing processes include securing any software, hardware, and network used in manufacturing processes, as well as physical security to prevent unauthorized access to the shop floor. When applied to manufacturing operations, secure by design means integrating cybersecurity considerations into every stage of manufacturing processes, from the design of the products to their final production and distribution.

Join us at an upcoming workshop discussing the entire operational technology (OT) journey/Cyber Physical Systems(CPS). Sign up to receive an invitation and learn more here: 

5. Implement Network Segmentation

Network segmentation is one of the most essential security controls. Say, for instance, you suffer a perimeter breach and need to limit the spread of a malware infection inside the network while also enabling communication data flow for manufacturing production processes: Network segmentation enables you to do that. To achieve network segmentation, you will first need to overcome a hurdle: The challenge is accurately identifying and grouping OT assets and developing effective firewall rules without hindering necessary communications. Following these steps can help ensure successful implementation: 

  • Identify assets: Identify OT assets using available tools (e.g., CMDB, Excel, log analysis, SOC tools). Perform physical walkdown for unidentifiable assets.
  • Group assets: Assign a logical group to each OT asset defined by the network location, service provided, ownership, risk level, and/or tiering of the asset. 
  • Migrate assets: Analyze the network traffic logs to identify traffic flows between assets. Develop firewall rules, and logically assign devices to zones.
  • Zone lockdown: Remove any broad rules created during migration, and verify default deny rules are in place.
  • Review and monitor: Routinely review denied traffic logs to ensure no critical traffic is being blocked following the lockdown. Effectiveness of network segmentation can be measured by the reduction in unauthorized network traffic and the effectiveness of firewall rules in isolating critical assets.

6. Foster OT Security Governance

Remember how you raised awareness with key stakeholders? Now, it’s once again time to spread the word about the importance of security—this time, across the whole company. You will need to foster a manufacturing security culture by leading awareness activities, driving behavioral change, and reinforcing best practices to reduce cyber risk at all levels of the organization. This step involves creating a comprehensive plan for OT security governance, including policy, awareness, standards, and patterns. Success can be measured by the degree of compliance with security policies and the reduction in security incidents due to misconfigurations and negligence.

7. Start OT Cybersecurity Operations

Robust OT security operations, including incident response and vulnerability management, are essential for timely and effective threat mitigation. Due to the dynamic of the cyber threat landscape, you will likely find it challenging to develop and keep efficient processes for threat analytics, playbooks, and vulnerability management. Here are some tips for successful OT cybersecurity operations:

  • Incident response: Combine the baseline understanding of the network environment with cyber threat intelligence and algorithms to develop tailored and adaptable defense. Develop OT threat analytics and playbooks to enable collaborative, effective, and efficient response to alerts from new OT security tools.
  • Vulnerability management and cyber threat intelligence: Develop and implement processes to continually identify, prioritize, and remediate vulnerabilities. 
  • Threat detection: Traditional cybersecurity metrics can be insufficient for managing risk and lack insights to inform leaders in other parts of the business about the threats to OT environments. Adversaries can take advantage of gaps in controls and visibility. To combat these issues, organizations should explore opportunities to use data-driven approaches within their OT environments to measure the amount of pressure being put on controls and, in turn, use a model to measure the effectiveness of any control protecting the product during a specific time. Such approaches can set common goals and expectations for key results to support alignment on what the effectiveness of a control means and measuring against it, in addition to giving the business tangible information about the threat activity the OT controls are facing. Measuring the level of threat pressure within an OT environment is useful in several ways:  
    • Increased pressure may increase the risk profile of a control or the OT environment.
    • Increased pressure or deviations in control effectiveness can help prioritize alerting or supply support to OT-related incidents.
    • Enhanced threat hunting and threat modeling can be achieved by using the threat data existing within an OT environment, rather than relying on reactive information shared by other organizations that often lack timeliness and details.

The effectiveness of these operations can be measured over time by the speed and efficiency of incident resolution executed by both enterprise SOC and site OT staff and the reduction in known vulnerabilities in the manufacturing environment.

Moving Forward

To start putting this approach into action, manufacturers and other critical infrastructure businesses that rely on OT are encouraged to conduct a comprehensive assessment of their current cybersecurity posture against these recommendations, identify areas for improvement, and implement a phased approach to bolster their defenses. In addition, since cyber threat actors are constantly evolving their malicious methods and technology is always changing, it’s important to regularly review and adapt OT security strategies as needed. 

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