February 23, 2024

Manufacturing, energy generation, power distribution, water treatment and supply, transportation, and healthcare are just some of the many sectors that rely on the specialised set of technologies known as “operational technology” (OT) to create, move, heal, clean, and otherwise support the essential processes that are the heart of their respective endeavours. Sectors like manufacturing, energy generation, power distribution, water treatment and supply, transportation, and healthcare are responsible for overseeing OT security

An increasing number of malicious actors with a wide range of technical knowledge and motivations are launching attacks on these industrial systems. Threats to OT in the present day include everything from ransomware and IP theft to vandalism and outright cyberterrorism. Damage to systems and buildings, as well as human injury, could result from these dangers.

Recognizing the Diverse Elements of OT Security

The term “operational technology” refers to the collection of tools used to facilitate and maintain business operations. Transportation (rail, maritime, etc.), logistics (ports, warehouses, etc.), and many other industries are just some of the many that OT includes in its broad definition.

There are four distinct types of OT tools.

Because of the wide variety of endpoints that populate OT networks, securing these systems can be challenging. Modern OT environments consist of thousands of different device types, including servers, firewalls, workstations, diodes, remote terminal units (RTU), relays, I/O devices, sensors for the IIoT, cameras, and backup power supplies.

From a safety perspective, it is useful to classify the numerous OT components into four broad groups. Servers, workstations, human machine interfaces, and other parts fall into this category.

They run critical process application software and control domains, among other control and reporting tasks, and typically use traditional commodity operating systems like Windows or Linux. The historian servers’ job is to gather information and forward it on to the enterprise data collection system, which they could do as well.

Switches and firewalls similar to those used in IT are used to connect OT systems, but there is also specialised networking hardware, like industrial firewalls, used to regulate traffic using industry-specific protocols. OT networking equipment such as industrial firewalls are shown here. The manufacturers of networking equipment supply their own proprietary embedded operating system for use in these specially designed devices.

Integrated controllers.

The huge variety of control devices has greatly helped to expand this list. There are many different types of medical devices in the collection, including PLCs, controllers for distributed control systems, protective relays, remote terminal units, machine controls of manufacturing devices, physical access controls like swipe cards, and many others. Embedded and proprietary operating systems created by the device makers power these gadgets. These systems often combine standard components with unique programming.

Shorthand for “input/output”

The roster of input/output devices, in contrast to the extensive list of control devices, appears to have no limits at all. In this article, we focus on the hardware that is responsible for supplying inputs and outputs to the processes themselves, rather than the I/O that is sometimes integrated with the control. Sensors can be installed in a variety of ways, including on cards in a PLC rack, in cameras, as pressure or temperature gauges, and so on. Similar to embedded control devices, these gadgets use custom operating systems developed by the producer. These operating systems are typically built from standard components and specialised code.