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May 27, 2020 By Davor Karafiloski

Utilizing Cloud SOAR to manage IT and OT and strengthen the cybersecurity posture

The aggressive digitization in virtually every segment of industrialized sectors, including IT and OT systems, has left a massive imprint on the ways organizations produce, communicate, and ultimately defend from malicious cyber threats. Nonetheless, there are still some systems that are in conflict with the latest technological advancements, such as OT systems. And this exact inability to utilize the latest technologies makes their integration with IT (Information Technologies) rather challenging, and in some cases, inconceivable.

To overcome these challenges that arise in the OT-IT environment, organizations should lean on technologies that have the power to diminish the shortcomings and establish a strong, protected platform. And the best technology that fits the description is SOAR.

Why OT systems can’t incorporate the latest technological advancements

Long before we had the Internet of Things (IoT) and closely interconnected wireless devices, there was industrial automation. Industrial automation was the engine that kept OT (Operational Technology) systems running, and to a significant extent, it still does today.

However, industrial automation isn’t the most effective way of running contemporary industrial operations. But, many may wonder why OT systems simply don’t embrace the latest technologies? The reasons are plain and simple:

  • OT systems are scarcely updated: OT differs from IT systems in the processes and technologies used to effectively maintain production, massive delivery, inventory systems, etc. And the reason why the number of attacks is growing in OT networks is that OT devices are rarely taken down for updates.

  • Must maintain a 100% uptime: OT is most commonly found in critical infrastructures, such as water, oil and gas, energy, automated manufacturing, etc. OT is even used as the foundation of air and road traffic control, building control systems, and shipping systems.

This is why OT systems need to be supported by IT capabilities in order to become more resilient to cyber attacks. And it is exactly why the convergence of IT and OT is particularly critical.

And even though the convergence was considered out of the question before the turn of the century, companies have slowly but inevitably started to see the benefits that the joint forces of these previously separate departments have to offer.

The benefits of the OT-IT convergence

As we already mentioned, with the digitization of the OT environment, the disconnect of IT and OT systems has generated a multitude of negative effects, mainly revolving around security gaps and disruption of optimal performance. Over the past couple of decades, though, the benefits of the IT-OT convergence have been clear:

  • Enhanced operational performance.

  • Better economic outcomes.

  • Improved communication across the entire platform.

  • Increased overall productivity.

These are the main reasons why the industrial world benefits from having IT and OT coming together in a shared environment. However, even though the benefits are obvious, there are still some challenges that prompt resistance toward converging these two departments. Mainly the fact that the convergence of IT/OT networks makes the entire organization prone to cyber threats.

The main obstacles in the OT-IT convergence

The big gap in visibility and poor communication has made these two individual departments vulnerable to cyber attacks, which ultimately exposes the integrity of the entire organization to imminent cyber danger. In this regard, the biggest obstructions the OT/IT convergence faces are:

  • OT systems rely on decades-old technologies that were developed long before modern security protocols have been established.

  • Industrial Control Systems weren’t designed for cybersecurity.

  • OT systems are not updated as regularly as IT systems.

  • The connection between OT and IT systems is often established on insecure devices and unencrypted Wi-Fi networks.

  • Lack of visibility in ICS environments.

The most obvious challenges revolve around the fact that OT and IT systems are based on vastly different technologies. OT systems simply can’t afford to update their technology because of the rigorous requirement of meeting a 100% uptime.

Furthermore, OT and IT recruit employees that have a specialized understanding strictly in the area of expertise required only in their respective environments. In other words, there is a limited understanding of the technologies used in both IT/OT sectors outside the scope of people working in these environments.

The significant gaps in cybersecurity created by the OT-IT convergence

OT systems are mostly targeted by malware, phishing, mobile security breaches, and spyware. And, given that it is not a matter of “If” but a matter of “When” cyber attackers strike OT systems, there are several key elements that keep OT systems on the map of constant cyber danger:

  • Lack of visibility: OT systems rely on proprietary protocols, which makes it difficult for conventional IT security solutions to properly detect vulnerabilities, assess risk awareness, and remediate cyber attacks.

  • Incapable of consistent system updating: Shutting down OT operations for software maintenance and upgrade is out of the question.

  • Network complexity: OT networks are usually vast and complex, varying from 50 to 500 interconnected devices. And, without up-to-date software, the network is continuously under imminent risk.

  • Lack of cyber skills: teams also don’t have the necessary experience to deal with sophisticated cyber threats in OT systems.

These are the main key reasons that showcase just how vulnerable OT systems are, and since it is difficult to thoroughly protect OT systems from cyber attacks, the necessity of incorporating a cybersecurity technology that’ll fill the gap left by the IT/OT convergence is emphasized.

Using SOAR to improve the OT systems

SOAR stands for Security Orchestration, Automation and Response. SOAR can simply be explained as the technology that is used to reply to incidents in less time. SOAR uses machine learning and automation to learn repeatable patterns, tell apart false positives from real threats, and provide comprehensive data reporting from a singular, centralized platform.

Some of the most important capabilities of our Cloud SOAR solution includes are:

  • Open Integration Framework: We believe in an interconnected world, and Cloud SOAR’s Open Integration Framework allows anyone to create bi-directional integrations. Our clients have access to over 200 integrations with some of the most popular tools and technologies.

  • Triage and Advanced Machine Learning: The Triage capability in Cloud SOAR allows you to handle suspicious events that require deeper analysis outside the context of an incident.

  • Case Management: Another patented Sumo Logic technology, case management allows you to manage all aspects of incident management with specific emphasis placed on the evidentiary and probatory role.

  • Forensic Approach: Cloud SOAR’s forensic approach to case management allows clients to have access to valuable data regarding the incident, including the elements which have been found, the type of attack that was orchestrated, and who initiated the attack.

Thanks to its interactive nature, SOAR acts as a bridge between IT and OT SecOps, all the while offering its clients improved means of running their security operations.

Bottom line is, SOAR starts where detection ends. SOAR automates manual tasks, simplifies threat investigation processes, centralizes the entire management of workflow processes, orchestrates other specialized technologies, and allows teams to reply to cyber attacks in less time.

Relying on Cloud SOAR to overcome the challenges of the OT-IT convergence

As we mentioned earlier, visibility is a big hindrance to the IT-OT convergence. In this regard, we underlined the importance of incorporating a cybersecurity tool that acts as connective tissue among IT and OT teams, enhancing the workflow of the security operations, and utilizing machine learning to lessen the number of false positives.

This is why, Cloud SOAR, with its native, unique capabilities, positions itself as the perfect technology to fill the gaps left by the IT/OT convergence:

  • Extend SOC capabilities to the OT network.

  • Easily escalate to different teams/persons and allow multiple analysts to work simultaneously on incidents.

  • Improve and control Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for industrial environments.

  • Allow analysts to apply recommended measures based on the best practices.

  • Utilize the Instant Alarm Enrichment capability that provides essential information in order to make well-informed decisions to remediate incidents.

  • Distinguishing similar incidents and using deduplication to merge these incidents and apply proper remediation measures.

KPI dashboard for analysts, SOC managers, CISO, audit managers, OT managers to properly analyze relevant data, measure success and assess potential business risks.

By creating a common platform where IT and OT work together, SOAR acts as a connective tissue between these two departments which allows them to collect information about the nature of the cyber attack quickly, assign the right person to make appropriate decisions, generate common, accurate key performance indicators, and pursue common objectives in an all-in-one platform.

With Cloud SOAR, the organization can gain greater control over its entire workflow processes, automating tasks that can be automated, and assessing the optimal cost of its operation, all the while reacting with enhanced agility and flexibility to every cyber threat.

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Davor Karafiloski

Davor Karafiloski

SEO and Content Marketing Specialist

More posts by Davor Karafiloski.

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