In January, we commissioned market research firm YouGov to survey nearly 900 senior IT/security professionals from oil and gas, utilities, transportation, and healthcare organizations around the globe. While our goal was to gauge their overall cybersecurity readiness, as part of our research, we sought to determine whether a particular technology management structure worked better than others in terms of security.
IT managing OT? OT managing IT? OT and IT managed separately? Or IT and OT managed together? Does the structure matter? Does it make a difference?
What we discovered was, yes, it does matter, it does make a difference, and the way an organization structures its technology organization appears to have a direct correlation to the strength of and confidence in its security posture.
The Winning Combo
A key takeaway: When managed together, IT and OT are better and more capable of providing a hardened security posture and stronger defense.
Even though nearly half of respondents said they’d experienced a cyber attack in the past year, only one-fifth of companies—where IT and OT are jointly managed—reported being attacked.
What’s more, not only did their co-management style appear to result in fewer cyber attacks in the past year, but these organizations also said they expect to experience fewer attacks in the future than those with alternative management structures (e.g., IT managing OT or IT and OT managed separately).
Time to Say So Long to Silos
No doubt, there needs to be a clear demarcation between those who understand IT and those who understand OT and control systems. The primary responsibility of IT is service delivery, often measured in service level agreements. The primary responsibility of OT is safety and process control, which extends to people, the environment, and assets.
However, as the survey indicates, for adequate cybersecurity readiness, IT and OT can no longer be siloed functions; they must align. This makes collaboration and cross training essential. OT should have access to IT expertise, and IT needs to understand the needs of the industrial side. A good place to start is with a collaborated focus on fundamental security practices such as network segmentation, access control, and incident response planning.
Short- and Long-term Security Investments
In the near-term, IT security will likely remain a top investment priority. However, it was heartening to see the survey reveal that, longer term, where OT-specific security did not currently exist in an organization, there is often a clear indication of plans to install it. This could indicate that organizations, while defaulting to IT-specific security solutions, are beginning to explore other options to complement their existing cybersecurity strategy.