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Why should OT Companies follow NIS2: Safeguarding Critical Infrastructure in a Digitally Connected Era

Eduard Serkowitsch, Senior Systems Engineer | February 1, 2024

Safeguarding Critical Infrastructure in a Digitally Connected Era: Why OT Companies should  follow NIS2

The digital transformation of industrial landscapes has brought unprecedented advancements in efficiency and productivity for Operational Technology (OT) companies. But this surge in connectivity exposes critical infrastructure to heightened cybersecurity risks, such as:

  1. Ransomware Targeting Smart Cities
    • Scenario: A sophisticated ransomware attack targets the critical infrastructure of a smart city, affecting systems that control traffic lights, public transportation and emergency services.
    • Impact: Widespread transportation disruptions, public safety concerns and financial losses. Attackers demand significant ransom to restore services.

  2. Supply Chain Cyber Attack on Healthcare
    • Scenario: A nation-state actor exploits vulnerabilities in the supply chain of a major healthcare provider, injecting malware into medical devices and compromising patient records.
    • Impact: Disruption of healthcare services, compromised patient data and potential risks to patient safety. The incident raises concerns about the security of interconnected medical devices.

  3. Cloud Service Provider Breach
    • Scenario: A major cloud service provider experiences a data breach, exposing sensitive information about numerous client businesses and individuals.
    • Impact: Business disruptions, compromised intellectual property and widespread concerns about the security of cloud-based solutions. Regulatory investigations and lawsuits may follow.

  4. Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) Targeting Financial Institutions
    • Scenario: An APT group with nation-state affiliations targets multiple financial institutions with a coordinated attack, aiming to steal sensitive financial information and disrupt global financial systems.
    • Impact: Financial losses, erosion of customer trust and potential disruptions in international financial markets. The incident prompts collaborative cybersecurity efforts among financial institutions and law enforcement.

  5. IoT Device Exploitation in Manufacturing
    • Scenario: Hackers exploit vulnerabilities in IoT devices within a manufacturing facility, leading to unauthorized access to production systems and manipulation of manufacturing processes.
    • Impact: Production delays, defective products and financial losses. The incident underscores the importance of securing IoT devices in industrial environments.

  6. Social Engineering Attack on Critical Infrastructure Personnel
    • Scenario: Cybercriminals use sophisticated social engineering tactics to manipulate employees within a critical infrastructure organization, gaining unauthorized access to sensitive systems.
    • Impact: Unauthorized access to critical systems, potential manipulation of infrastructure controls and concerns about the effectiveness of employee training programs.

To address these risks, OT companies should adhere to the guidelines in the European Union’s Directive on Security of Network and Information Systems (NIS2).

  1. Growing Interconnectedness and Vulnerabilities

    Increasing interconnectivity of industrial control systems (ICS) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems has expanded the attack surface for malicious actors. As OT systems become more integrated with IT networks, the potential impact of cyber incidents on critical infrastructure becomes more severe. NIS2 establishes a framework to enhance the resilience of essential services and address potential vulnerabilities.

  2. NIS2 as a Comprehensive Security Framework

    NIS2 provides a comprehensive set of rules and requirements aimed at ensuring the security of network and information systems across various sectors, including energy, transportation, healthcare, and more. The directive mandates OT companies implement risk management practices, incident response capabilities and cybersecurity measures to protect against cyber threats. By following NIS2, OT companies can establish a robust security posture that aligns with industry best practices.

  3. Critical Infrastructure Protection

    Critical infrastructure, including power grids, water supplies and transportation systems, plays a pivotal role in the functioning of societies. Disruption to these essential services can have severe consequences, ranging from economic losses to compromised public safety. NIS2 imposes obligations on OT companies to adopt measures that reduce the likelihood and impact of cyber incidents.

  4. Cross-Sector Collaboration and Information Sharing

    NIS2 encourages collaboration and information sharing among OT companies, public authorities and regulatory bodies. This collective approach to cybersecurity enables the identification and mitigation of emerging threats more effectively.

  5. Legal and Financial Implications

    Non-compliance with NIS2 can have legal and financial repercussions for OT companies. The directive empowers regulatory authorities to impose sanctions on organizations that fail to meet its requirements. Adhering to NIS2 not only mitigates legal risks but also safeguards the financial stability and reputation of OT companies.

In an era when digitalization and connectivity define the industrial landscape, the adherence of OT companies to the NIS2 directive is not merely a regulatory obligation but a strategic imperative. By embracing NIS2, OT companies can proactively address cyber threats, contribute to the overall resilience of essential services and ensure the sustained functionality of critical infrastructure in an increasingly interconnected world.

Forescout specializes in providing cybersecurity solutions for device visibility and control. Forescout  addresses NIS2 with capabilities that underpin some of its key requirements:

  1. Device Visibility and Inventory
    • NIS2 emphasizes the importance of knowing what devices are connected to the network. Forescout’s platform provides comprehensive visibility into all connected devices, including IoT and OT devices, plus traditional IT assets.
    • Automated device discovery and classification help organizations maintain an accurate inventory – crucial for managing security risks and ensuring NIS2 compliance.

  2. Risk Assessment and Management
    • Forescout enables organizations to assess the security posture of connected devices and manage the risk. It can identify vulnerabilities, outdated firmware and misconfigurations on devices.
    • Continuous monitoring and risk assessments align with NIS2’s focus on proactive security measures and risk mitigation.

  3. Network Segmentation and Enforcement
    • NIS2 encourages the implementation of security measures, including network segmentation, to contain and mitigate the impact of security incidents. Forescout helps enforce network segmentation policies by dynamically adjusting access controls based on device attributes and security posture.
    • Automated response actions, such as isolating or restricting access for non-compliant devices, enhance network security.

  4. Incident Response and Threat Mitigation
    • Forescout facilitates rapid incident response by providing real-time information about devices and their activities. It can detect anomalous behavior and potential security incidents, allowing organizations to respond promptly.
    • Automated threat response actions, such as isolating compromised devices, align with NIS2’s requirements for incident response capabilities.

  5. Compliance Monitoring
    • Forescout’s platform can assist in monitoring compliance with security policies and standards. It can generate reports and alerts related to security policy violations, helping organizations demonstrate adherence to NIS2 requirements during audits.

  6. Integration with the Security Ecosystem
    • Forescout integrates with other cybersecurity solutions, such as SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) systems and vulnerability management tools. This integration enhances overall security visibility and enables comprehensive responses to security events, aligning with NIS2’s call for collaborative cybersecurity.


The NIS2 Directive: Enhancing Cyber Security across the EU
Access The NIS2 Mapping Guide

Forescout provides valuable support for many NIS2 compliance aspects, and compliance with NIS2 involves a holistic approach that includes organizational policies, processes and technologies. Organizations should assess their specific NIS2 compliance requirements and leverage Forescout’s capabilities within a broad cybersecurity strategy.

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