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Fortinet Global Survey Uncovers Critical OT Security Challenges

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Fortinet today released its global 2022 State of Operational Technology and Cybersecurity Report. While industrial control environments continue to be a target for cyber criminals – with 93% of Operational Technology (OT) organizations experiencing an intrusion in the past 12 months – the report uncovered widespread gaps in industrial security and indicated opportunities for improvements.
Vishak Raman, Vice President of Sales, India, SAARC & Southeast Asia at Fortinet, “This year’s global State of OT and Cybersecurity Report demonstrates that while OT security has the attention of organizational leaders, critical security gaps remain. PLCs designed without security, continued intrusions, a lack of centralized visibility across OT activities, and growing connectivity to OT are some of the critical challenges these organizations need to address. Security converged into the OT networking infrastructure, including switches and access points and firewalls, is essential to segment the environment. This combined with a platform that spans OT, converged OT/IT and IT provides end-to-end visibility and control.”
Key findings of the report include:
• OT activities lack centralized visibility, increasing security risks. The Fortinet report found that only 13% of respondents have achieved centralized visibility of all OT activities. Additionally, only 52% of organizations are able to track all OT activities from the security operations center (SOC). At the same time, 97% of global organizations consider OT a moderate or significant factor in their overall security risk. The report findings indicate that the lack of centralized visibility contributes to organizations’ OT security risks and weakened security posture.
• OT security intrusions significantly impact organizations’ productivity and their bottom line. The Fortinet report found that 93% of OT organizations experienced at least one intrusion in the past 12 months and 78% had more than three intrusions. As a result of these intrusions, nearly 50% of organizations suffered an operation outage that affected productivity with 90% of intrusions requiring hours or longer to restore service. Additionally, one-third of respondents saw revenue, data loss, compliance and brand-value impacted as a result of security intrusions.
• Ownership of OT security is not consistent across organizations. According to the Fortinet report, OT security management falls within a range of primarily director or manager roles, ranging from the Director of Plant Operations to Manager of Manufacturing Operations. Only 15% of survey respondents say that the CISO holds the responsibility for OT security at their organization.
• OT security is gradually improving, but security gaps still exist in many organizations. When asked about the maturity of their organization’s OT security posture, only 21% of organizations have reached level 4, which includes leveraging orchestration and management. Notably, a larger proportion of Latin America and APAC respondents have reached level 4 compared to other regions. More than 70% of organizations are in the middle levels toward having a mature OT security posture. At the same time, organizations face challenges with using multiple OT security tools, further creating gaps in their security posture. The report found that a vast majority of organizations use between two and eight different vendors for their industrial devices and have between 100 and 10,000 devices in operation, adding complexity.
As OT systems increasingly become targets for cyber criminals, C-level leaders recognize the importance of securing these environments to mitigate risks to their organizations. Industrial systems have become a significant risk factor since these environments were traditionally air-gapped from IT and corporate networks, but now these two infrastructures are becoming universally integrated. With industrial systems now being connected to the internet and more accessible from anywhere, organizations’ attack surface is increasing significantly.
With the IT threat landscape becoming more sophisticated, connected OT systems have also become vulnerable to these growing threats. This combination of factors is moving industrial security upward in many organizations’ risk portfolio. OT security is a growing concern for executive leaders, increasing the need for organizations to move toward full protection of their industrial control system (ICS) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems.
Best Practices to Overcome OT Security Challenges
Fortinet’s global 2022 State of Operational Technology and Cybersecurity Report indicated ways organizations can address OT systems’ vulnerabilities and strengthen their overall security posture. Organizations can address their OT security challenges by:
• Establishing Zero Trust Access to prevent breaches. With more industrial systems being connected to the network, Zero Trust Access solutions ensure that any user, device or applications without proper credentials and permissions are denied access to critical assets. To advance OT security efforts, Zero Trust Access solutions can further defend against both internal and external threats.
• Implementing solutions that provide centralized visibility of OT activities. Centralized, end-to-end visibility of all OT activities is key to ensuring organizations strengthen their security posture. According to Fortinet’s report, top-tier organizations – which make up the 6% of respondents who reported no intrusions in the past year – were more than three times as likely to have achieved centralized visibility than their counterparts who suffered intrusions.
• Consolidating security tools and vendors to integrate across environments. To remove complexity and help achieve centralized visibility of all devices, organizations should look to integrate their OT and IT technology across a smaller number of vendors. By implementing integrated security solutions, organizations can reduce their attack surface and improve their security posture.
• Deploying network access control (NAC) technology. Organizations that avoided intrusions in the past year were more likely to have role-based NAC in place, ensuring that only authorized individuals can access specific systems critical for securing digital assets.

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