Securing your operational technology (OT) is a marathon, not a sprint. Maintaining uptime while staying secure requires diligence and a thoughtful security strategy as you not only have to focus on your own network but also on the myriad of ways that suppliers impact your OT environments. When it comes to supply chains, OT industries face complex challenges. To name just a couple:
Third-Party Vulnerabilities: Supply chains today are interconnected webs involving numerous third-party entities that may not have the same cybersecurity measures in place as your organization. If they lack robust security practices, it creates a potential weak link in your supply chain. If one of your partners falls victim to a cyberattack, it can serve as a gateway for hackers to infiltrate your systems, posing a significant risk to your business continuity and reputation.
Data Breaches and Intellectual Property Theft: Collaboration with partners often involves the sharing of sensitive information, such as design blueprints, production schedules, or proprietary data. If a partner's systems are compromised, there's a risk of data breaches, which can lead to the loss of critical intellectual property, trade secrets, or confidential customer data. This not only jeopardizes your competitive advantage but can also result in legal and regulatory repercussions.
Your supply chain partners are an integral part of your success and you can never fully control their networks and their guardrails. Which means even more pressure on you to maintain your security. Here are three key things to think about to stay secure:
Start with Comprehensive Visibility
The foundation for security starts with visibility. Without visibility into your OT environment, there can be no prioritization of data, applications, assets, and systems to secure against cyberattacks. After all, your organization cannot secure what you can’t see. This includes visibility into interfaces with third-party networks and systems, third-party remote access, and device communications. Especially for the latter where it is difficult to pre-filter hardware or software products that may have backdoors or malicious software pre-embedded. Visibility plays a vital role in detecting command and control traffic that are indicators of compromise.
Achieving visibility starts with an extensive inventory of the OT systems and components involved, including legacy systems nearing end-of-life. Complete awareness of assets, their vulnerabilities, communications flows, and roles within industrial processes is imperative to establishing a security posture and applying the appropriate security policies across the OT network.
Zero Trust for Every OT Environment
Attackers are using sophisticated methods to get into your network - including through your supply chain. In this context, Zero Trust security is a critical approach for safeguarding every OT environment in today's digital landscape. Zero Trust challenges the traditional notion of trusting everything within your network and instead operates on the principle of "never trust, always verify." It's essential because it recognizes that threats can come from both external and internal sources, and it requires continuous authentication and authorization for any user or device trying to access resources within the network. While adaptations may be needed to accommodate the legacy aspects of many OT systems, by adopting Zero Trust, you help ensure continuous protection for the critical assets in your operational network - whether it's an entire industrial control system, a legacy engineering workstation on the factory floor, a remote worker's laptop, or a cutting-edge 5G-connected device.
Simplicity is Key
Managing an OT environment is hard enough for most organizations. When you start adding multiple OT environments, multiple global suppliers, and almost unlimited working locations, the complexity scales exponentially. While it is tempting to use point solutions for each unique security challenge - such as for devices, for 5G, for remote access, for visibility - this just adds even more architectural and operational complexity when you try to stitch them all together. That's why it's important to think holistically about a solution that covers all of your environments and all of the ways suppliers participate in them, such as a consolidated platform approach.
In the era of digital transformation and globalization, the supply chain is becoming more and more important and more and more risky. A holistic solution can help address the risks and provide comprehensive visibility that affords the operational team the right information at the right time and addresses the right instance where action is necessary to both avoid and terminate any anomalous activity that may put OT systems at risk.