IT/OT Convergence: Perils, Promise & Your Best Defense Strategy

July 14, 2023

Welcome, cyber defenders, to an era where the boundaries between Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) are no longer rigid. Our industrial landscape is evolving, and, as we navigate this transformation, we find IT/OT convergence before us. The convergence of these two realms, once disparate, has brought a new era of efficiency and productivity, driving our industries forward into the future.

The Path to and Promise of IT/OT Convergence

Let’s pause for a moment to consider the path that brought us here. The legacy model of operation, a stalwart of the past, demanded that IT and OT remain isolated, each in its own silo. This was a notion born of necessity, a product of the times when IT and OT spoke different languages, operated on different scales, and served different purposes.

We have since outgrown this model, spurred on by the relentless march of progress. Through the rise of Industry 4.0, we’ve bridged the gap, and built the connections. The data exchange between OT and IT has surged, fueling automation and creating increasingly efficient environments.

Industry 4.0 has brought forth a trio of transformative stages: Digitization, Sensorization, and Optimization.

  • Digitization involves connecting digitized outputs to industrial assets, merging the digital and physical worlds in ways we could only dream of a few years ago. This blend of realities provides real-time visibility into all incidents and actions when connected to security information and event management (SIEM) solutions.
  • Sensorization includes the incorporation of sensors into industrial processes. This layer of interconnection enables the auto-detection of changes in parameters like temperature, pressure, and humidity, ensuring continuous monitoring and prevention of potential mishaps.
  • Optimization leverages data analytics and simulations in our AI and ML-driven world, allowing industry to optimize business and process outcomes. Optimal results yield profits for organizations through time and management efficiencies.

Perils with IT/OT Convergence

Yet, as with all great advancements, IT/OT convergence is not without its challenges. The integration of IT and OT has opened a new front for potential cyber-attacks, exposing vulnerabilities that can be exploited by those with malicious intent. This is a reality we must face and a challenge we must overcome, for the stakes are higher than ever. We live in a world where the number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices has surpassed the number of traditional IT devices. IoT has become mainstream and has enhanced industrial processes with smart sensors and actuators, leading to what we now term the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – the intersection of OT and IoT. The proliferation of these devices has, unfortunately, attracted increased attention from adversaries seeking to exploit their vulnerabilities for quick monetary gains or to cause disruption.

Furthermore, attacks that were once solely aimed at enterprises or IT are now also directed at OT assets. When devices are mission critical, an attack on a frontline device or workstation can lead to an attack on OT systems, impacting not just business, revenue, and reputation but also human lives, depending on the type of OT infrastructure involved.

The Purdue Model Imperative

The Purdue Model emphasizes the importance of segmentation and isolation in ensuring security, while balancing performance. The idea of grouping similar systems together is essential. As we navigate deeper into the complex terrain of the IT/OT convergence, it’s crucial to understand the risks that emerge when the layers of the Purdue Model aren’t managed effectively. The Stuxnet attack serves as a stark reminder of the possible repercussions. This malicious worm, discovered in 2010, caused substantial damage to Iran’s nuclear program by exploiting the OT systems’ vulnerabilities. In essence, Stuxnet demonstrated that cyber-attacks could leap from the virtual world to cause physical havoc, making us realize that every device in an OT environment is deemed mission critical.

However, as IT and OT become more intertwined, we must adapt and develop new strategies and tools to protect our systems and data.

Robust strategies for cyber defense with DeepSeas

How do we navigate this intricate landscape? To address the cybersecurity risks associated with IT/OT convergence, a robust and effective solution is needed. This is where DeepSeas MDR+ comes into play. DeepSeas MDR+ is a Managed Detection & Response solution designed to protect businesses from sophisticated cyber threats. It offers a comprehensive approach to security, providing 24/7 protection against global adversaries and delivering high-value outcomes that address key areas of cyber risk.

DeepSeas MDR+ works by providing in-depth detection and response capabilities, reducing security visibility gaps, minimizing business impact risks through fast and complete threat response, and optimizing existing security investments. Its robust platform helps businesses overcome staffing challenges by providing 24/7 access to a deep force of cyber talent.

Moreover, DeepSeas MDR+ is well suited for managing the unique risks of OT systems. Our cybersecurity experts have decades of experience in driving complex managed cybersecurity programs across multiple industries, making it a reliable choice for businesses navigating the perils and promise of IT/OT convergence.

The Promise of IT/OT Convergence

Despite the risks, the promise of IT/OT convergence is too significant to ignore. It brings about improved efficiency, reduced costs, and enhanced capabilities. The integration enables the real-time flow of information across systems and departments, leading to better decision-making and productivity. Organizations must take proactive measures to mitigate these risks, and DeepSeas MDR+ for OT, IT, mobile, and cloud represents a comprehensive solution – offering 24/7 protection, fast and complete threat response, and a way to optimize existing security investments.