Detailed Fortinet study provides telling insight on role of cyber security in OT

A Fortinet-commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting has found that, due to increased digitalisation, industrial firms are more exposed to cyber threats than ever before. In addition, the lack of collaboration between Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) teams represents another cyber security barrier for organisations wishing to take full advantage of IT/OT convergence to increase their business benefits.

Industrial firms are committed to further digitalising their factory floor to find new efficiencies and improve their ability to gather data that can provide business insight into production processes. 66% of respondents said their factories run through IP-connected networks and use real-time data to inform business decisions.

However, these IP-connected networks bring up new cyber security risks, with 73% of respondents in agreement that the attack surface has expanded.

Meanwhile, only half of respondents agreed that their factory machinery is well prepared to fight off cyber security threats, leaving the other half unprepared. 55% of respondents either have no plans to implement or otherwise plan to implement cyber security technologies in the next 12 months.

Another key finding shows that Industrial Control Systems (ICS) are at risk due to lack of collaboration between the IT and OT environments, with 51% of respondents claiming they operate in silos, meaning the OT team manages critical industrial equipment and any OT cyber security whereas the IT team is responsible for management of IT cyber security. A quarter to over a third of respondents didn’t know who had primary responsibility for cyber security solutions such as process, control and automation systems, and even business planning and logistics. However, 91% stated that security of factory machinery should be a shared IT and OT responsibility, as well as having clear and regular communication on the IT/OT convergence vision (58%) in order to ensure a successful IT/OT convergence.

Organisations have much to gain from convergence and close collaboration between OT and IT teams, with the biggest being access to real-time data insights from manufacturing operations (66%) and being able to monetise and create new business opportunities via increased insight into production data (59%).

Numerous efficiency gains are to be obtained as well, with 43% of respondents citing reduced duplication of processes and workflows between plants, as well as enhanced visibility to mitigate cyber security threats.

Joe Sarno, vice-president of international emerging and operational technology and critical infrastructure (EMEA) at Fortinet, stated: “Industrial firms need to change at the operational level in order to bridge the divide between the IT and OT environments and build trust between these teams to ensure a successful convergence. As the attack surface expands, IT and OT teams must collaborate to improve visibility and defend against cyber threats. That’s precisely why we’re investing a lot of time and resources into R&D for ICS cyber security solutions.”

The online survey was conducted in the UK, India, Turkey, Spain, Poland, Germany, Slovakia, Italy, France, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands to evaluate the techniques industrial firms use to manage security, security roles and responsibilities between IT and OT and the challenges and opportunities of IT/OT convergence. The survey elicited responses from 459 IT and OT decision-makers responsible for ICS at industrial enterprises with 1,000 employees or more.

The sectors represented are automotive, transportation, manufacturing, maritime and aviation engineering.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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