Cybersecurity professionals say hacking is the biggest threat to industrial networks.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

March 26, 2020

4 Min Read
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Cybersecurity professionals lack confidence in the safety and security of industrial networks, and believe a cyberattack on critical infrastructure could be even more detrimental than an enterprise data breach.

That’s according to new research by Claroty into the state of industrial cybersecurity globally. An independent survey of 1,000 full-time IT security professionals was carried out in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France and Australia to determine the attitudes and concerns of IT security professionals related to operational technology (OT) security.

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Dave Weinstein, Claroty’s CSO, tells us there is certainly opportunity for MSSPs and other cybersecurity providers in IT and OT convergence. According to the report, only 65% of respondents have been trained in the differences between these two networks and believe they have the skills to manage an OT network’s cybersecurity, he said.


Claroty’s Dave Weinstein

“Working to converge IT and OT networks gives MSSPs the chance to help unlock business value in terms of operations efficiency, performance and quality of services, although equally, this proves to be a challenge as well because threats, both targeted and non-targeted, have the freedom to maneuver from IT to OT environments and vice versa,” he said.

Most IT infrastructure was designed with security in mind and is built for interconnectivity, Weinstein said. The OT environment, by contrast, wasn’t designed to be either secure or interconnected, he said.

“When managing an OT network’s security, MSSPs must be cognizant of these fundamental differences and how they impact traditional security operations and policies,” he said. “With OT networks, for example, you can’t simply implement patches every day. Similarly, you can’t discover devices or monitor traffic using traditional techniques or tools because most of the assets on an OT network communicate using proprietary, vendor-specific protocols that can’t be easily parsed and understood. Perhaps the greatest opportunity for MSSPs in regard to the integration of OT and IT networks is to achieve efficiencies with respect to people and technology. As IT and OT networks converge, it’s increasingly important to glean full spectrum of visibility across both networks. Doing so also empowers defenders to track threat actors that are exploiting IT networks to access OT targets and vice versa.”

In regard to timing and urgency, about two in three (63%) of U.S. IT security professionals expect a major cyberattack to be successfully carried out on national infrastructure within the next five years. However, 10% said there will never be one, despite ample evidence of attacks targeting energy and other related sectors, according to Claroty.

“OT security is a new area of cybersecurity for most organizations, and while critical infrastructure owners and operators have made great progress in the last few years with reducing their cyber risks, most are still at the very beginning of what will be a long and continuous journey to maturity,” Weinstein said.

Global IT security professionals, including those in the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Australia, have a more positive outlook. A majority of all global respondents believes that industrial networks are properly safeguarded. Those in Australia and Germany are by far the most confident in the overall safety of industrial networks.

When asked which type of cyberattack on industrial networks would be most prevalent in 2020, a majority of U.S. IT security professionals put …

… hacking at the top of the list, followed by ransomware and sabotage. There also is a strong consensus among U.S. practitioners that electric power is the most vulnerable sector of critical infrastructure, followed by oil and gas, and transportation.

Additional key stats and contributing factors:

  • An overwhelming majority of U.S. IT security professionals believe that the government is responsible for properly protecting critical infrastructure from cyberattacks.

  • IT and OT security practices are converging at a rapid rate due to digital transformation and the evolving threat landscape, which presents new challenges and opportunities for CISOs.

  • While clearly acknowledging the urgency surrounding critical infrastructure, most U.S. respondents express little desire to work in industrial cybersecurity.

“While the survey has revealed concern over securing OT networks, we are now armed with the information that a strong OT security foundation also enables critical digital transformation initiatives that unlock value,” Weinstein said.

“IT security professionals need to be empowered with tools that eliminate complexity, align with the needs of OT and simplify governance. With converged IT and OT solutions, CISOs can leverage their existing IT security processes and technologies to improve the availability, safety and reliability of their OT assets and networks seamlessly, and without requiring downtime or dedicated teams. Strong OT security yields stronger OT availability and IT security and, ultimately, better protection for the networks that run the world’s infrastructure.”

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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