OT refers to operating technology. Gartner defines it as „hardware and software that detects or causes a change through the direct monitoring and/or control of physical devices, processes and events".
Other terms commonly used in this area are ICSs (Industrial Control Systems). These are a key sector in the OT and often a heavy punt, as they are used, as the name suggests, to control large industrial processes, such as power plants. ICSs are often managed through SCADA (Supervision Control and Data Acquisition). So that exact SCADA cybersecurity is a focal point. Precisely because SCADA systems allow full control over the entire industrial process.
IT and OT systems have traditionally been separated but have grown together in recent years. OT systems are increasingly connected to the Internet, through more powerful communication networks within the critical infrastructure providers.
For example, a dashboard can be provided to managers to provide information about the performance of a power plant, operational changes (e.g. changes in load generation) and commercial decisions (e.g. the execution and pricing of purchase contracts) in real time.
This brings clear benefits, but also new risks. OT systems are no longer isolated and can no longer be isolated. Therefor cyberattacks are executed directly to IT-OT Systems, connected to the internet. These attacks thus have immediate physical consequences. If the organization is part of the critical national infrastructure, such an attack has an immediate impact on nationalsecurity.
The most important principles may be similar, but IT cybersecurity is considered much more mature and advanced than OT Cybersecurity. This is partly due to the fact that IT systems have been used much more frequently so far, that the risks have been better understood and that there are sufficient case studies on real attacks to ensure that the focus and understanding of how to deal with the risks available.
In the past, OT systems were physically isolated, and cybersecurity was not a priority until the recent convergence trend put them on the agenda.
There are significant overlaps and similarities between OT and cybersecurity, and OT cybersecurity can learn a lot from IT cybersecurity. Probably 80% of the threats are the same as for IT systems, but the other 20% are the biggest challenges. Some of the main differences are: