Today, every business with a mission-critical ICS network is trying to leverage the potential advantages of closer integration between IT and OT systems. However, this integration results in complexity and a lack of visibility into all the new assets that are being connected. In fact, industry estimates suggest around 70% of organizations don’t have complete visibility into their ICS networks.
If you can’t see something, you can’t maintain it, detect threats to it, or effectively control your response to those threats. This lack of insight is one of the reasons why 79% of SCADA/ICS organizations have experienced a security breach in the last 24 months, the costs of which often range from $30,000 to $1.3 million per hour, depending on the industry. Ouch.
Convergence is Complicated
In this context, it’s not surprising that both IT and OT managers are increasingly overloaded when it comes to trying to maintain network integrity and up-time. After all, every new interface between IT and OT creates extra potential entry points for cyber adversaries, and most industry experts believe that the threat trend is only going in one direction – up.
As if that weren’t enough, IT and OT convergence also increases the likelihood of malfunctions, misconfigurations, and other operational errors.
Moreover, the number and diversity of people needed to define and manage the converged environment has never been greater.
- C-level executives are required to establish business clarity and resilience to keep shareholders happy.
- Senior managers need to ensure they understand and fulfill compliance obligations.
- Technical experts across IT, OT and IS must work together to keep the infrastructure up and running, no matter how complex it gets.
Without the right solutions in place, all this is enough to give today’s OT managers a migraine.
So, what’s in the medicine cabinet?
Non-Intrusive Network Monitoring Brings Clarity
OT managers must be able to see the details of all the assets they need to protect in the converged environment. Deploying an advanced and optimized network monitoring and situational awareness platform for industrial networks is a sound way of shining a light on unknown assets and threats. Because they are invisible to the network, these solutions don’t affect running processes and equipment. They collect asset information such as type, version, location, configuration changes, and vulnerabilities by listening to traffic already traveling through the network. And they can track all this information in real time.
The asset owner also has the option to deploy additional non-intrusive active modules. Carefully driven by the passive system, the active modules can query specific nodes of the network more extensively to gain additional information, guaranteeing complete safety of the system.
As a result, keeping an accurate asset inventory becomes much easier and cheaper. In addition, visibility information and alerts about potential threats to operational continuity are delivered to a central management platform in real time. From there, they can be appropriately escalated within the organization. In this way, network monitoring becomes a potential cure for even the biggest of ICS asset security headaches.
A Brighter Future for OT Managers
To summarize, passive network security monitoring enables OT asset owners to:
- Establish asset visibility – That means seeing beyond the OT firewall, finding out what’s going on out there, assessing the associated risks and then defining the potential vulnerabilities on any endpoint. Along the way, easier data acquisition has the additional benefit of simplifying the compliance process.
- Improve threat detection – Passive network monitoring helps OT managers define known and unknown threats, identify inefficiencies and address weak points. The result: less cost and risk through the elimination of unplanned downtime.
- Gain control – With a network baseline established for the ICS environment, and immediate alerts generated when it deviates from that baseline, OT managers can easily see what they need to do to restore the network.