Operational Technology (OT) Cybersecurity: A Comprehensive Guide

The cyber-attack on Taiwan’s Defence Ministry’s website from China amid heightened tensions is trending in the news these days. But the question remains: What were some of the more common vulnerabilities found? What could have been done better? Also, do you know how much a cyberattack might cost your company?


According to Coveware, the median ransom payment in Q1 2021 was $78,398, and the average ransom payment was $220,298. This excludes the price of downtime (the inability to accept payments, reply to emails, or access systems). 

Since the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) explosion, Operational Technology (OT) systems have become the object of a relentless wave of attacks. There is no doubt that OT cybersecurity is an issue for the private and public sectors, given the potentially devastating impact that an OT system may have if compromised. 

Let us accept that Cybersecurity is a growing concern in the workplace. This comprehensive guide will help you understand the operational technology (OT) and what steps you and your employer should take to protect yourself from cyber-attacks and ensure that no one gets hacked.

The Basics of Operational Technology (OT) Cybersecurity


1. What is Operational Technology (OT) Cybersecurity? 

Operational technology (OT) cybersecurity is the practice of protecting operational technology systems and networks from cyberattacks. These systems and networks control and monitor industrial processes and critical infrastructures. In short, operations technology includes IT infrastructure, application development, and business intelligence (BI) management. It can include anything from hardware to software, servers to databases, networks to cloud services—the list goes on!

2. Why is Operational Technology (OT) Cybersecurity important? 

OT cybersecurity is critical because cyberattacks on these systems can cause physical damage to equipment or disruptions to essential services. For example, a cyberattack on a power plant could cause a blackout, and a cyberattack on a water treatment facility could contaminate the water supply.   

Operational Technology (OT) systems control and monitor physical processes and environments. They are often found in critical infrastructure industries such as energy and utilities, transportation, and manufacturing. OT systems are often connected to the Internet or other networks, which opens them up to potential cyber threats. If these systems are compromised, it could have severe consequences for the safety and operations of the facilities they control. That’s why OT cybersecurity is so critical. 

Organizations need to take steps to secure their OT systems from cyber threats, just as they would any other type of information system. This includes things like patch management, access control, and network segregation. OT systems often have unique characteristics that need to be considered when securing them. For example, they may be located in remote or hard-to-reach places, or they may need to be able to operate in conditions with no Internet connection. This can make traditional security measures like installing firewalls or antivirus software difficult or impossible. 

Organizations must be aware of the risks posed to their OT systems and take steps to protect them. Cybersecurity is a critical part of any OT security strategy.

3. What are the challenges to Operational Technology (OT) Cybersecurity? 

There are many challenges to OT cybersecurity, such as the fact that these systems are often old and use outdated technologies. Additionally, OT systems are usually located in remote or difficult-to-access areas, making them difficult to protect. 

OT cybersecurity is a complex challenge due to the variety of systems and devices that make up OT networks, the often-critical nature of these systems, and the fact that they are often not designed with security in mind. Additionally, OT systems are often connected to other systems and networks, making them difficult to isolate and protect. 

The challenges to OT cybersecurity are significant, but we can take some steps to mitigate the risks. These include increasing awareness and understanding of OT cybersecurity risks, implementing security controls and procedures, and monitoring and responding to incidents. 

Despite the challenges, it is essential to protect OT systems from cyberattacks. One way to do this is to isolate OT systems from the rest of the network. This can help to prevent attackers from gaining access to these systems. Additionally, we can monitor OT systems for signs of intrusion and should implement security controls to prevent and detect attacks. 

What are Some Cyber Security Standards for OT?  

There are many standards and best practices for securing industrial control systems and other Operational Technology (OT) assets. These include standards from the International Society of Automation (ISA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Center for Internet Security (CIS). 

If you’re not sure which one to use, check out these standards:  

  • ISO/IEC 27032:2018 – The standard for cybersecurity risk management and compliance. It provides guidelines on implementing a comprehensive cybersecurity program within an organization’s IT infrastructure and processes.   
  • ISO/IEC 27034:2018 – The standard defines principles, concepts, and requirements relating to information security management systems (ISMS). It also guides on implementing best practices when developing an ISMS;   

Suggested Reading: Why is EDR Crucial for Financial Industry?

  1. Ensuring compliance with regulations such as PCI DSS v3;   
  2. Integrating IT governance into business processes through enterprise architecture (EA) models;  
  3.  Applying risk assessment techniques across all phases of development cycles;   
  4. Implementing effective incident response plans following major incidents or disasters affecting organizations’ networks or assets containing confidential information (including intellectual property).  
  5. The ISA/IEC 62443 series of standards is the most widely recognized set of standards for industrial cyber security. They provide a comprehensive framework for securing industrial control systems, from the device to the enterprise level.  
  6.  The NIST 800-82 guide provides best practices for securing industrial control systems, including guidelines for network architecture, device hardening, and security monitoring.  

 The CIS Critical Controls for Effective Cyber Defense is a set of best practices for securing OT systems developed by a consortium of leading OT security experts.  

These standards and best practices provide a solid foundation for securing OT systems against cyber threats. However, it is important to note that no single set of standards or practices can provide complete protection. Organizations should tailor their approach to OT security according to their specific needs and risks.  

How to Secure OT Infrastructure?  

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how to secure OT infrastructure. However, we can follow several best practices to help ensure the security of OT systems. These include:   

  • Establishing a clear and well-defined security policy for OT systems.   
  • Conducting regular risk assessments of OT systems and networks.   
  • Implementing security controls such as firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems, and access control measures.   
  • Monitoring OT systems and networks for suspicious activity.   
  • Training OT personnel on security awareness and best practices.   

By following these best practices, organizations can help to ensure the security of their OT systems and networks.  

Suggested Reading: What is EDR and Why Your Business Needs Endpoint Detection and Response?

IT vs. OT Cybersecurity   

The distinction between IT and OT Cybersecurity is becoming more and more blurred. IT and OT cybersecurity professionals need to stay updated on the latest threats and vulnerabilities to protect their organizations.   

However, there are some key differences between IT and OT Cybersecurity. OT cybersecurity focuses more on operational technology, such as industrial control systems and SCADA systems. These systems are often critical to the functioning of an organization, so OT cybersecurity professionals need to be aware of the unique threats and vulnerabilities associated with them.   

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On the other hand, IT cybersecurity is more focused on traditional information technology, such as computers, networks, and data storage systems. While these systems are also critical to the functioning of an organization, they are not typically mission-critical like OT systems. As such, IT cybersecurity professionals need to be more focused on protecting data and preventing unauthorized access to systems.   

Both IT and OT Cybersecurity are important, and the distinction between them is becoming less and less important. However, understanding the key differences is essential for ensuring that your organization is properly protected.  

Several Important OT Cybersecurity Attacks  

Many high-profile cybersecurity attacks have caused significant damage and disruption in recent years. These attacks have targeted various organizations, including government agencies, critical infrastructure operators, and large corporations. The attackers have used various methods, including malware, phishing, and denial-of-service (DoS) attacks.   

  1. One of the most notable attacks was the WannaCry ransomware attack, which occurred in May 2017. This attack used a piece of malware that encrypted the files on infected computers and demanded a ransom payment to decrypt them. The WannaCry attack affected more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries and caused billions of dollars in damage.   
  2. Another notable attack was the NotPetya attack, which occurred in June 2017. This attack also used ransomware to encrypt files on infected computers. However, the NotPetya attack was designed to cause as much damage as possible and did not include a mechanism for decrypting the files. As a result, the NotPetya attack caused more than $10 billion in damage.   

These attacks illustrate the serious threat cyberattacks pose to organizations of all types. Organizations must be vigilant in protecting their systems and data from these threats.  

Future: OT cybersecurity for Industrial companies

Operating Technology (OT) is a target for attackers working on the worldwide cyber security front. There has never been a more pressing need to manage OT cyber threats. Risks are constantly evolving. According to IBM, manufacturing, and energy are now the second and third most targeted industries, respectively, up from eighth and ninth.  

As industrial organizations move towards more connected and automated systems, they will become increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks. Future OT cybersecurity will need to take into account the specific threat landscape of industrial organizations, which often includes attacks on critical infrastructure and industrial control systems. To effectively protect against these threats, industrial organizations must implement comprehensive security measures, including physical and cyber security. 

As industrial companies increasingly rely on OT systems to drive their operations, they are also becoming more vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. To address this, industrial companies must invest in OT cybersecurity solutions that protect their systems from attacks. These solutions will need to be able to detect and respond to threats in real time and provide data and analytics to help companies understand their cybersecurity risks.  

OT cybersecurity solutions are still in their early stages of development, but several vendors are already offering products to help industrial companies protect their OT systems. As these solutions become more sophisticated, they will become increasingly essential for industrial companies that want to maintain a secure and reliable OT system.  

Why CISOs require an OT cybersecurity program?  

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 As a CISO, you’re responsible for making sure your company’s highly sensitive company data is secure from internal and external threats. How can you ensure sensitive data on your business-critical OT (operational technology) systems is protected?  

CISOs require an OT cybersecurity program for several reasons.

  1. Industrial control systems (ICS) are more susceptible to cyberattacks due to their increased Internet connectivity.
  2. Industrial control systems (ICS) are often used to control critical infrastructure, such as power plants and water treatment facilities, which makes them a high-value target for hackers.
  3. ICS often use proprietary protocols and devices, making them more difficult to secure.
  4. ICS are often located in remote or difficult-to-reach locations, making them difficult to physically secure.

The use of Information Technology (IT) infrastructure to monitor, control, and protect Operational Technology (OT) systems has evolved in recent years. Because of the highly sensitive nature of OT infrastructure, the risk that cyber-attacks pose to mission-critical operations, and the general lack of understanding by IT professionals to secure it effectively, specialized techniques and tools are needed to address OT security.

As Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT) systems become more and more intertwined, it’s increasingly important for CISOs to have a cybersecurity program that specifically addresses OT security concerns. OT systems are often mission-critical, and even a small disruption can have major consequences. Additionally, OT systems are often much less secure than IT systems, making them an attractive target for attackers.   

CISOs need to work closely with OT staff to ensure that all security risks are properly identified and mitigated. They also need to have a clear understanding of the OT environment and how it differs from the IT environment. With an OT-specific cybersecurity program in place, CISOs can help protect their organizations from the growing threat of OT attacks.  

What should you all be looking for when choosing an OT security vendor?  

When it comes to OT security, there are a few key things to look for in a vendor.   

  1. First and foremost, they should have a strong understanding of OT systems and how they work.   
  2. They should also have a good reputation in the industry and be able to offer a comprehensive security solution that covers all aspects of OT security.   
  3. Another thing to consider is the vendor’s ability to provide ongoing support and maintenance. This is important because OT security is an ever-evolving field, and you need to be sure that your vendor can keep up with the latest changes.   
  4. Finally, you should also consider the cost of the security solution. While it is important to have a strong security solution in place, you also need to be sure that it is affordable.   

By keeping these things in mind, you can be sure to choose an OT security vendor that is right for you and your organization.  

What are the recommendations for best practices in OT cybersecurity?  

A number of best practices should be followed to maintain Cybersecurity in an occupational therapy (OT) setting.  

  1. First and foremost, all OT staff should be trained in basic cybersecurity principles and aware of the potential risks and vulnerabilities associated with using OT technology.  
  2. Secondly, OT facilities should have clear and up-to-date policies and procedures for managing cybersecurity risks, which should be regularly reviewed and updated as needed.  
  3. Thirdly, all OT technology should be properly secured and updated with the latest security patches and software updates.  
  4. Finally, any suspected cybersecurity incidents should be promptly reported to the appropriate authorities.  


Experts predict that the cybersecurity market will be worth $300 Billion by 2024. With so many cyberattacks happening in the world today, businesses and organizations must plan and invest in Cybersecurity to prevent these attacks. With a market value of USD 3 billion in 2022, managed cyber security services will probably account for a sizeable portion of the industry in China, as per the report from GM Insights. Having said that, one company should definitely have a managed security service provider to keep up with the latest security threats. 

Ace Cloud Hosting is a managed security services provider (MSSP) that offers a full suite of services designed to help companies like yours minimize risk and meet compliance mandates such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, GDPR, SOX, GLBA, NIST 800-53, ISO 27002, FFIEC, NIST 800-171, NIST CSF, and FISMA. We provide services like intrusion detection monitoring, intrusion prevention monitoring, intrusion prevention, firewall management, anti-malware management, web application firewall management, data encryption management, and many more. We provide managed services to clients in every industry, including healthcare, manufacturing, financial, retail, technology, and many more. Ace Cloud Hosting’s team of cybersecurity experts has decades of experience protecting companies from the threats of the digital world, so we can help you ensure that your business stays secure from today’s advanced threats. With that, we can also provide customized plans as per your need with a 24*7 SOC team monitoring your organizational security. 

Visit here – MSS | Managed Security Services Solution | Ace Cloud Hosting 

To learn more about managed cybersecurity services from Ace Cloud Hosting, schedule a free security assessment with our experts worth $500 today!  

About Nolan Foster

With 20+ years of expertise in building cloud-native services and security solutions, Nolan Foster spearheads Public Cloud and Managed Security Services at Ace Cloud Hosting. He is well versed in the dynamic trends of cloud computing and cybersecurity.
Foster offers expert consultations for empowering cloud infrastructure with customized solutions and comprehensive managed security.

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