What is OT Security and how it is different from IT Security?

What is OT Security and how it is different from IT Security?

Before we get into defining what OT security is, let us first know about OT (Operational Technology). Operational Technology is the hardware or software that manages, monitors, and controls industrial equipment and operations. It includes Industrial Control Systems (ICSs) like Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), Distributed Control Systems (DCSs), and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) Systems. OT is used to regulate physical processes in manufacturing, energy, medicine, building management, and other industries.

Now that you know about OT, let us know in-depth about OT Security. Why it is important?

What is OT Security?

Operational Technology Security is the use of hardware and software to protect operational technology infrastructure and its data from cyber threats. OT Security includes a wide range of security technologies, including identity access and management systems, Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Systems, and Next-generation Firewalls (NGFWs).

Why it is important?

Traditionally OT systems were not connected to the internet. Therefore, they were safe from any kind of security breach. But with the digital transformation of the industrial sector, IT and OT networks converged which is increasing OT’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks.
The high cost of industrial equipment and the destruction that a cyber-attack could do to communities and economies are important considerations for businesses to look into safeguarding their industrial control systems. This is where OT security comes into play. OT security maintains safe operations of all physical assets in an industry by securing it from possible cyber threats like ransomware, IP theft to vandalism and cyberterrorism, etc.

How OT security is different from IT security?

Before knowing how OT security differs from IT security, it’s important to understand the difference between IT and OT. In simple words, the basic difference between IT & OT is that Information Technology (IT) controls data whereas Operational Technology controls the equipment.

Key factors that make OT Security different from IT Security are as follows:

Operational Environment: OT security focuses only on safeguarding industrial environments including machinery, PLCs, etc. whereas IT security focuses on protecting devices like PC, Smartphones, servers and cloud, etc.

Purpose: While OT security’s primary objective is the safety of critical equipment and processes, in IT security the main emphasis is on maintaining the confidentiality of the crucial data.

Security Patching Rate: OT networks are rarely patched as it involves the complete shutdown, whereas IT networks are patched regularly.

Frequency of Incidents: Although OT networks have less frequency of cyber-attack incidences, yet when they happen, they are destructive. On the other hand, IT networks are prone to a higher frequency of cyber-attack incidences, but they can be less destructive.

As OT systems are different from their IT counterparts; hence, for effectively securing the OT systems one must opt for cybersecurity solutions that possess an in-depth understanding of the OT environment. To know about one such OT Security Solution, check out our next blog on How Can you Secure your Industrial Control System?

Some of the recent cases of OT Cyber-attacks are as follows: