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Why You Need Penetration Testing to Keep Operational Technology Secure

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Operational technology (OT) is essential for many industries, from energy and utilities to manufacturing and healthcare. It allows for the automation of physical processes like monitoring, control, and data acquisition. However, OT systems are inherently vulnerable because of their age and lack of security features. This exposes them to cyber threats that can lead to costly outages, data breaches, and even physical damage.

Penetration testing is an important security measure that helps to identify weaknesses in OT systems and make sure they are properly secured. This type of testing simulates real-world cyberattack scenarios by attempting to exploit security vulnerabilities within the system. By finding and fixing these vulnerabilities, organizations can not only reduce the risk of a cyberattack but also enhance the overall security of their operational technology.

According to Markets and Markets research, the global operational technology market was at US$ 157.9 billion in 2022. The analysis predicts it will reach a US$ 216.3 billion valuation by 2027. Along with this growth of the operational technology market, the cyber threat is also rising. Thus, security professionals must adopt cybersecurity and penetration testing to secure the OT ecosystem. This article is a comprehensive guide on operational technology and the importance of cybersecurity and penetration testing for Operational Technology (OT).

Importance of cybersecurity in Operational Technology

After the industrial revolution 4.0, almost all industries started leveraging digital systems and data-driven approaches to generate more revenue and gain a competitive edge. Operational Technology implements hardware, software, sensors, industrial control systems, and automation technologies to manage industrial equipment seamlessly. Any delay or downtime in the industrial systems due to cyberattacks can cost a business time and money. Securing digital assets is necessary for this technology and data-driven industrial culture.

That is where OT cybersecurity comes in with different tools and techniques to test the hardware and industrial control systems and protect them from cyber threats. OT cybersecurity plays a notable role in developing extensive security for software applications, hardware like IoT, networks, and protocols. One way to strengthen OT security is by ethically exploiting the loopholes in the industrial system through penetration testing.

In the following section, we will see why business owners and industry experts prefer penetration testing to secure operational technology and industrial digital assets.

Role of penetration testing in Operational Technology

According to a research report, by 2027, the operational technology cybersecurity market cap will reach from US$ 15 billion in 2022 to US$ 32.4 billion. This means enterprises will only raise their cybersecurity investments. Here’s how OT penetration testing can benefit industrial systems:

  1. Reveal vulnerabilities: With OT penetration testing, enterprises will discover vulnerabilities before attackers.

  2. Assess the strength of your industrial security systems: You can gauge the system's strength through penetration testing and determine where to upgrade the security tools or principles. It helps security professionals pinpoint the areas where your system isn't working appropriately.

  3. An authentic and real-time threat analysis: Penetration testing on industrial and operational technology systems is simulated tests depicting how an actual hacker might infiltrate the industrial control system and its networks. Thus, OT security professionals and industrial business executives can plan security measures based on penetration testing reports.

  4. Improve security and data compliance: Penetration testing also plays a significant role in keeping industrial systems aligned with compliances and regulations. Through pentesting reports, factory and industry owners can determine whether the industrial system design and operational technology principles adhere to the current regulatory policies.

Through penetration testing, industrial systems can prevent massive financial losses/fines, data leakage disgrace and prepare a cyber chain map. This way, security professionals can identify how cybercriminals exploit the system.

Well-known tools used in OT cybersecurity and pentesting

  • Firewalls:

    It monitors all incoming and outgoing network traffic within the industrial network system. It can also filter all the traffic within the network devices based on rules established by security professionals or business protocols.

  • Identity and Access Management (IAM):

    It is another tool that helps manage all operational technology-related digital identities, processes, and policies. IAM enables network admins to monitor and regulate user access and manage authentication. IAM also provides secure access to central resources as a part of the industrial control system.

  • Anti-malware detecting apps:

    These systems can monitor, notify, and take proactive actions if they detect any malware in the operational technology network. These solutions can often detect ransomware, Trojans, and spyware via packet behavioural analysis.

Nessus, Metasploit, Wireshark, Nikto, and Burpsuite are well-known tools security professionals use for OT pentesting.

Conclusion

Cybersecurity and penetration testing are essential for securing the operational technology ecosystem. Enterprises and industries should leverage penetration testing and security tools to eliminate functional breakdowns due to security breaches and cyber incidents. To learn more about Packetlabs ICS/OT Security Assessment, contact us!

ICS/OT Cyber Security Assessment

An Industrial Control System/Operational Technology security assessment is important to ensure the safety and security of devices or systems that are used to control, manage, monitor and/or otherwise impact operational processes and activities. An assessment simulates the likelihood of an attacker reaching the control centre from an external and internal perspective and can help identify vulnerabilities and prioritize remediation efforts to reduce risk.