Watching the bottom line—How a Zero Trust position can save time and money

Operational technology (OT) organizations face increasing challenges when it comes to cybersecurity. Manufacturing in particular has become a bigger target for bad actors; in fact, it was one of the sectors most impacted by extortion attacks, according to Palo Alto Networks’ 2023 Unit 42 Extortion and Ransomware Report

As Industry 4.0 continues to roll out, the internet of things (IoT) is expanding, and manufacturing organizations are using the latest technologies to scale. While time is of the essence for companies in this transformation process, cybersecurity must not be an afterthought. And stronger cybersecurity isn’t just a necessity; it also makes economic sense.

An explosion of OT assets

As digital transformation has built momentum, manufacturers have rapidly increased the number of OT assets connected to their internal networks. This connectivity maximizes efficiency, keeps critical infrastructure running, and gives the business new information and insights. Examples of these newly connected systems and assets include industrial control systems (ICS), remote terminal units (RTUs), and distributed control systems (DCS). Historically, these weren’t designed with security in mind. OT assets are highly vulnerable to attack because they don’t have built-in security, traffic isn’t encrypted and there’s low visibility into their functioning.

Security is paramount for the core infrastructure that supports manufacturing and industrial operations. Impacted operations can pose a physical threat to workers, impact revenue, cause product defects, or impact critical services to customers.

Security failures are also expensive. Multiple attacks on well-known manufacturers have ended with huge expenses, including Austrian aerospace parts maker, FACC AG, which lost $61 million thanks to a phishing scam, and Norsk-Hydro, which was hit by a ransomware attack that cost $75 million. Renault-Nissan lost a cool $4 billion thanks to the massive WannaCry attack. And these are just some of the biggest ones. We hear about these types of attacks with distressing regularity. Attacks against OT systems pose risks beyond financial losses. Cyber-attacks against organizations like the San Francisco MUNI light rail system, Triton, CPC Corp., Colonial Pipeline, and the Ukraine power grid, to name a few, all led to potential health risks and operational shutdown of critical facilities.

Building a stronger, better cybersecurity posture for manufacturing  

In the manufacturing sector, security teams need a solution that gives them visibility into their OT assets. It should help teams find and catalog unique assets on their industrial networks and rapidly assess threats and vulnerabilities. The solution also needs to improve the prevention of both known and unknown threats as well as make and automate across-the-board zero trust policies to defend both OT assets and the network.

Teams need a holistic solution that delivers the most secure approach: 

  • Obtain comprehensive visibility – Use accurate, context-rich visibility of all assets, apps, and users to see and evaluate the OT/ICS threat surface. Marrying machine learning with crowdsourced telemetry and passive identification technology enables organizations to rapidly assess and score risk for everything and everyone that you can now see.
  • Apply Zero Trust principles – A Zero Trust security framework can be used for OT and 5G assets and remote operations at plants and remote sites. Build policies and processes to apply it; including built-in policy enforcement, using security controls like segmentation where automated policy enforcement is problematic – such as in the physical process through control levels of the Purdue Model – access policies based on least privilege, nonstop threat inspection, and continuous trust verification of communications.
  • Simplify operations – Make security deployment and operations simpler by using a centralized platform from one provider, but make sure it works with the overall architecture for your IT and your OT facilities.

3 business benefits of stronger security  

Having a more secure IoT network is a huge win in itself, but there are three additional benefits worth knowing about.

The first is the ability to get to ROI faster. A winning combination of security solutions will help accelerate returns on your Industry 4.0 investments because they deal with the security barriers that tend to slow down IoT, 5G, and SD-WAN adoption.

The second business benefit is cost savings. A platform approach can make integration with existing technologies simpler, facilitate automation, and reduce the complexity of creating and managing policies. All of these functions can lower capital expenditures and operating expenses. In fact, Enterprise Strategy Group found that an industrial OT security solution can provide 351% ROI over a five-year period.

The third benefit is the reduction of downtime. You can’t generate revenue or deliver critical services if operations are down. A machine learning (ML)-powered solution can detect and mitigate risks that might otherwise be overlooked – which could lead to ransomware or other malicious activity that can lead to downtime. Using an ML-based solution can help your facility avoid SolarWinds-level attacks and the associated costs of lost production time.

OT security drives ROI

Manufacturing business leaders tend to see security as a cost center, but these investments in technologies can drive productivity and should be considered ROI generators. The reality is that not having the right cybersecurity infrastructure in place can ultimately cost you more money. As the traditional OT air gap disappears, companies need comprehensive security technologies that provide Zero Trust security, visibility, and simpler operations. A platform-based approach combined with machine learning capabilities will help IT security teams achieve rapid ROI while keeping their digital assets safe.

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