Proactively Protecting Against Cyber Threats

Secure Your Company with a Cybersecure Control System  

Cybersecurity continues to gain more and more momentum in manufacturing, and for good reason. Some of these facilities can be responsible for millions, sometimes billions of dollars in business, quickly gaining attention and unfortunately becoming a target for a cyberattack if not properly secured. 

At a time when manufacturing facilities tend to be one of the most impacted by the decline in available workforce, the need for more flexibility in production capabilities takes precedence over most other initiatives. The rush to connect available assets for consolidated control and monitoring, and integrating their data collection and analysis will sometimes push decision makers to leap before they look. Not always considering any of the following, or lack thereof, may become an active threat without proper planning:  

  • Increasing IT/OT Convergence: Industry 4.0 & improving plant efficiency is a major driver for this convergence trend. Organizations see improved efficiency as a worthwhile end goal, but it does come with an expanding OT attack surface.  
  • High-Profile Incidents: Noteworthy OT/ICS cyberattacks over the last several years have proved how easily these high-profile OT systems can be broken into causing real concern. Some examples are the Stuxnet worm, the Ukraine power grid attack, and the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack. These examples show that OT/ICS incidents affect more than the targeted organizations. 
  • Nation-State Threats: Nation-state actors have shown interest in targeting critical infrastructure and industrial sectors as part of cyber espionage or cyber warfare efforts.  
  • Ransomware and Monetization: Ransomware attacks have evolved to target critical infrastructure and manufacturing facilities. These attacks have led to large downtime windows for the target organizations.  
  • Regulatory and Compliance Frameworks: Governments and regulatory bodies are recognizing the need to establish cybersecurity standards for critical infrastructure sectors. Compliance requirements and guidelines are being developed to ensure the security of OT and ICS systems. 
  • Supply Chain Risks: 3rd party supply chains can introduce vulnerabilities if one link in the chain has poor cybersecurity hygiene. Attackers may target smaller suppliers to gain access to larger and more critical systems. 
  • Lack of Security Measures: Many legacy OT and ICS systems were designed without security in mind. This was due to a focus on reliability and operational continuity. Retrofitting security onto these systems can be challenging. 
  • Awareness and Education: In relation to all the above, there has been a trend towards more awareness & education for employees. This has led to more awareness, research, and education in the field, prompting both industries and governments to invest in better security practices. 

Too often, the process of upgrading and updating automated systems starts before taking stock of what measures are in place to protect this investment. Unfortunately, realizing they may not be as well protected as they once thought comes on the back of a cyber-attack, rendering them victims and leaving them to act REACTIVELY instead of PROACTIVELY.   

Nothing Beats a Proactive Approach to Industrial OT/ICS Security 

To avoid adding to any further expense to what can already be a hefty sum while performing any number of control system upgrades to remedy the aforementioned challenges, it’s best to act proactively. If done correctly, can severely limit the vulnerability of a cyber-attack and provide the framework to continually assess, adapt and prevent most future threats.      

Being proactive will involve a combination of strategies and practices to expect, prevent, respond, and recover from potential threats. The following blueprint will enhance your proactive approach to OT/ICS cybersecurity: 


Risk Assessment and Management: 

  • Identify vulnerabilities and risks in your OT/ICS environment. 
  • Risks will be prioritized based on potential impact on operations and safety. 
  • Develop a risk management plan that outlines mitigation strategies and response procedures. 

Asset Inventory and Classification: 

  • Maintain an updated inventory of all OT/ICS assets, including hardware, software, and network components. 
  • Classify assets based on their criticality to operations and their potential impact if compromised. 

Security Policies and Procedures: 

  • Develop and put in place OT specific cybersecurity policies and procedures. 
  • Establish guidelines for access control, password management, network segmentation, and data protection. 

Regular Vulnerability Assessments and Penetration Testing: 

  • Perform regular vulnerability assessments and penetration testing to identify weaknesses in your OT/ICS systems. This can be done by internal or external resources.  
  • Address identified vulnerabilities utilizing best practices for remediation. 

Patch and Update Management: 

  • Establish a process for updating and patching software and firmware for your OT/ICS systems. 
  • Test updates in a controlled environment before deploying them to production systems. 


Network Segmentation: 

  • Implement network segmentation to isolate systems and restrict lateral movement of threats. 

Secure Remote Access: 

  • Put in place secure remote access mechanisms for maintenance and troubleshooting purposes. 
  • Use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or other secure methods to protect remote connections. 

Regulatory Compliance: 

  • Familiarize yourself with relevant industry standards and regulatory requirements for OT/ICS cybersecurity. 
  • Ensure that your practices align with these standards. 

Regular Review and Improvement: 

  • Review your cybersecurity measures based on changing threats and technology advancements. 


Continuous Monitoring and Intrusion Detection: 

  • Install intrusion prevention systems (IPS) to monitor network traffic and detect unusual or unauthorized activities. 
  • Set up real-time alerts for potential threats. 


Incident Response Plan: 

  • Develop an incident response plan that outlines roles, responsibilities, and procedures to follow in the event of a cybersecurity incident. 
  • Regularly update and test the plan to ensure its effectiveness. 

Secure Remote Access: 

  • Put in place secure remote access mechanisms for maintenance and troubleshooting purposes. 
  • Use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or other secure methods to protect remote connections. 


Develop Recovery and Restoration Capability: 

  • Define recovery objective when recovering from disruptions.  For example, the recovery capability shall prioritize human safety and environmental safety prior to restarting the OT operation that was impaired by the cybersecurity event. 
  • Develop a site disaster recovery plan (DRP) and business continuity plan (BCP) or both to prepare the OT organization to respond appropriately to significant disruptions in their operation due to the cybersecurity incident.  
  • Establish backup systems and process to back up the relevant OT systems’ state, data, configuration files, and programs at regular intervals to support recovery to a stable state. 
  • Establish processes for restoring relevant OT systems’ state, data, configuration files, and programs from backups in a timely manner.  

Always Be Prepared: A Critical Ism in Control System Configuration 

It’s not a question that cybersecurity and perpetual monitoring is needed for OT/ICS systems. It has become an increasingly crucial necessity due to the evolving and sophisticated nature of cyber threats. The proactive strategy, security measures discussed, and following industry best practices can help organizations mitigate the threat and potential impact, maintain operational continuity, and uphold public safety.

Proactive cybersecurity is an ongoing process. This requires consistent effort and dedication. Organizations should seek help from professionals or consultants who specialize in OT/ICS security. E Tech Group’s IT/OT Risk Assessments and pre-project FEED studies can help us design a facility-wide automation system that streamlines operations and offers that flexibility you so need, with robust security features that ensure you don’t sacrifice the integrity of your company’s initiatives.

Begin Your Journey to Industry 4.0

Download our Beginner’s Guide to IT/OT Assessments to gain an understanding of what an IT/OT Assessment is, its benefits, and how to get started today.

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