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Operational Technology (OT) Security and Cyberattacks: Research Reveals Key Trends

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Industrial control environments continue to be a target for cyber criminals, with 93% of Operational Technology (OT) organizations experiencing a breach in the past 12 months, yet “widespread gaps” remain in industrial security, Fortinet’s newly released 2022 State of Operational Technology and Cybersecurity report said.

Here’s what the report found:

A lack of centralized visibility contributes to organizations’ OT security risks and weakened security posture.

  • 13% of respondents have achieved centralized visibility of all OT activities.
  • 52% of organizations are able to track all OT activities from the security operations center (SOC).
  • 97% of global organizations consider OT a moderate or significant factor in their overall security risk.

OT security intrusions significantly impact organizations’ productivity and their bottom line.

  • 93% of OT organizations experienced at least one intrusion in the past 12 months and 78% had more than three intrusions.
  • Nearly 50% of organizations suffered an operation outage that affected productivity with 90% of intrusions requiring hours or longer to restore service.
  • One-third of respondents saw revenue, data loss, compliance and brand-value impacted as a result of security intrusions.

Ownership of OT security is not consistent across organizations.

  • OT security management ranges from the Director of Plant Operations to Manager of Manufacturing Operations.
  • 15% of survey respondents say that the CISO holds the responsibility for OT security at their organization.

OT security is gradually improving, but security gaps still exist in many organizations.

  • 21% of organizations have reached level 4, which includes leveraging orchestration and management.
  • More than 70% of organizations are in the middle levels toward having a mature OT security posture.
  • A vast majority of organizations use between two and eight different vendors for their industrial devices and have between 100 and 10,000 devices in operation.

OT Security is a Corporate-Level Concern.

  • As OT systems increasingly become targets for cyber criminals, C-level leaders recognize the importance of securing these environments to mitigate risks to their organizations.
  • With industrial systems now being connected to the internet and more accessible from anywhere, organizations’ attack surface is increasing significantly.

Operational Technology (OT): Four Cybersecurity Best Practices

Fortinet recommends the following four OT best practices:

  1. Establish Zero Trust Access to ensure that any user, device or applications without proper credentials and permissions are denied access to critical assets.
  2. Implement centralized visibility of OT activities. Top-tier organizations – which make up the 6% of respondents that reported no intrusions in the past year – were more than three times as likely to have achieved centralized visibility than their counterparts who suffered intrusions.
  3. Consolidate security tools and vendors to integrate across environments, reduce attack surfaces and improve security posture.
  4. Deploy network access control (NAC) technology to ensure that only authorized individuals can access specific systems critical for securing digital assets.
D. Howard Kass

D. Howard Kass is a contributing editor to MSSP Alert. He brings a career in journalism and market research to the role. He has served as CRN News Editor, Dataquest Channel Analyst, and West Coast Senior Contributing Editor at Channelnomics. As the CEO of The Viewpoint Group, he led groundbreaking market research.