Operational Technology (OT) is hardware and software that detects or causes a change through the direct monitoring and/or control of physical devices, processes, and events in the enterprise, according to Gartner.
Traditionally, OT cyber security was not necessary because OT systems were not connected to the internet. As industrial systems become more connected, they also become more exposed to vulnerabilities. The high cost of industrial equipment and the devastation to communities and economies that an attack could generate are key factors for organizations looking to protect their industrial networks. Add legacy equipment, safety regulations that may prohibit any modifications being made to equipment and compliance regulations that require sensitive data to be made available to third parties, and you have quite a challenge on your hands.
Often, IT and OT networks are kept separate, duplicating security efforts and eschewing transparency. These IT OT networks cannot track what is happening throughout the attack surface.
OT IT Networks Contain Huge Gaps in Security
Today’s interconnected world means that IT and OT can no longer consider security separately. It is important to understand the difference between IT and OT because IT and OT are often confused.
OT systems do not run on regular operating systems, often lack traditional security tools, and are usually programmed differently from conventional computers. Conversely, IT cybersecurity protects common devices like desktop and laptop computers, keyboards, printers, and smartphones.
Information Technology (IT) is defined as hardware, software, and communications technologies that focus on the storage, recovery, transmission, manipulation, and protection of data. Operations Technology (OT) is defined as hardware and software that detects or causes a change through the direct monitoring and control of physical devices, processes, and events.
IT systems are historically used to manage complex data and information flow, but today’s OT environments are leveraging them to manage complex physical processes. As a result, industries are safer, more efficient, and more reliable than ever before—but these technologies bring more security risks to facilities and operations.
The gray area that connects IT and OT is the development and deployment of IoT devices. IoT devices include a wide assortment of sensors for gathering real-world conditions, such as temperature, pressure and chemical compositions. IoT devices also include an array of actuators that translate digital commands and instructions into physical actions, such as controlling valves and moving mechanisms. Each IoT device is designed to communicate over standard networks, allowing them to exchange OT data with IT resources -- servers and storage -- sometimes over considerable distances.