How IT/OT integration boosts cyber security in industrial organisations

October 20, 2021

Manufacturing companies face many cyber security challenges, but the ones with the closest IT/OT collaboration are more likely to overcome them.

Let’s find out more.

In March of this year, Trend Micro published a survey on the state of industrial cyber security. It showed that most manufacturing companies had experienced cyber security incidents in their factories at one time or another. As a result, they invested in measures to combat cyber criminals attempting to infiltrate their networks. However, one important finding emerged – companies that implement collaboration between their IT and OT functions are more effective at keeping cyber criminals at bay.

In this article, we’ll look at IT and OT and the steps you can take to boost cyber security in your industrial organisation.


IT vs OT

Firstly, let’s look at the differences between IT and OT. Information technology (IT) is primarily information-based, managing the flow of data (digital information). On the other hand, operational technology (OT) deals with machines. When they work together in an organisation, IT pushes data into OT for processing. You could say that in a factory, the IT is the office where leaders devise the strategy, while OT is the factory floor where it all comes together to produce a result.

Traditionally, IT and OT are separated in companies, but new technological developments such as the Internet of Things (IoT) mean that IT and OT must move out of their silos and converge. Cyber security in OT used to be quite simple, but now they’re connected to networks just as much as IT, the need to protect OT is essential.


Benefits of IT/OT integration

The Trend Micro survey from late 2020 found that cyber security is a burning issue in the manufacturing sector:

  • 61% of factories surveyed have experienced cyber security incidents
  • Of those factories, 75% had experienced incidents that halted production
  • 43% had suffered system outages that lasted for more than four days

As a result, most factories have implemented technical solutions to boost cyber security standards. The most popular measures were on the perimeter of the networks – putting up firewalls and ensuring USB devices are malware-free before plugging them into the OT network. 

However, the most striking statistics concerned IT/OT collaboration. Only 12% of manufacturers surveyed had IT and OT teams working together on building processes and selecting technical cyber security solutions, but their cyber security measures were far more sophisticated:

  • 66% of organisations with IT/OT collaboration have implemented firewalls, compared to 47% with no collaboration

  • 56% of IT/OT-integrated companies have cyber detection solutions, compared to 46% without

  • 56% of organisations with IT/OT collaboration have an antivirus solution, compared to 49% without

It’s clear that when your IT and OT teams work together, selecting and implementing effective cyber security solutions suddenly becomes easier – and your security level rises as a result.


Next steps

Here are some steps you can take to boost cyber security in your industrial organisation:

  • Take precautions – Understand the risks that come from IT and OT, such as third parties plugging in new machines on your premises. Ensure they’re safe before you let them onto your network

  • Identify when attacks take place – Invest in solutions to monitor your IT and OT to detect cyber security issues quickly

  • Protect your IT and OT from third-parties away from your premises – Malware can infiltrate your network from anywhere, through emails or cloned websites, for example


The Darkbeam solution

When you let Darkbeam handle your digital risk management, we won’t just monitor your site, but your entire ecosystem. Darkbeam will:

  • Risk assess your whole supply chain to identify vulnerabilities, historical breaches and more
  • Track and alert you if there are any changes to your risk profile
  • Produce a detailed security breakdown to help you get to the bottom of any issues

Darkbeam is available as a SaaS platform or an API that integrates with your existing systems.

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