Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Operations

10/29/2019
10:30 AM
Dave Weinstein
Dave Weinstein
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
50%
50%

Why It's Imperative to Bridge the IT & OT Cultural Divide

As industrial enterprises face the disruptive forces of an increasingly connected world, these two cultures must learn to coexist.

We hear it all the time from security marketers and evangelists alike. "Information technology and operational technology are converging!" It's a simplistic way of characterizing what is a highly complex web of digital transformations affecting a broad range of industries, from manufacturing to energy to real estate.

But the statement is only half true. IT and OT are converging from a technology perspective, but the two disciplines are lagging from a governance and management perspective.

When I was first stepped-in as the chief technology officer of New Jersey, a veteran of the state's enterprise IT agency gave me a simple piece of advice. Having served decades in government, he had learned one indisputable truth: "Technology is the easy; culture is the hard part."

As I speak with chief information security officers (CISOs), security operations center (SOC) analysts, and plant engineers in the course of my work, I can't help but relate those words to industrial enterprises facing the disruptive forces of an increasingly connected world. As IT and OT technologies converge, their respective people and processes remain separated by different professional and intellectual cultures. This needs to change.

Perhaps the most obvious cultural divide between the two disciplines is how each thinks about risk. On the IT side, risk is largely calculated in the context of security. This means that consequences are often measured in terms of data loss, reputational harm, and legal or regulatory liability. On the OT side, risk is all about safety. The consequences range from plant downtime and the associated profit loss to physical damage and personal injury. 

In addition, IT and OT personnel might as well speak different languages: OT practitioners deal in obscure and often vendor-proprietary protocols, while IT professionals speak an almost universal vernacular dominated with a growing bias for open source technology. This language barrier hinders cross-functional collaboration and perpetuates siloed cultures — both of which are incompatible with mitigating the cyber-risks of converging IT and OT systems.

Finally, there's the issue of leadership. Most organizations still have not decisively adapted their organizational structures to address this new normal. While more and more CISOs are gaining responsibility for OT security, many enterprises are still federated in their governance structure. This perpetuates the institutional divides between IT and OT, and also contributes to redundancy in both technology investments and human resources. 

All of these should make us ask this important question: What do we do about it?

The first step is to converge your IT and OT people. Make them sit together, eat with each other, and go to happy hour together. It sounds straightforward because it is. There shouldn't be any daylight between these teams. Their respective networks are colliding into one network and the organizational structure must mirror this change, which may take some forcing.

Yes, IT and OT folks are different breeds, but at the end of the day, they're more likely than not to unite around common interests — especially when they all share a common boss. As a side benefit, converging IT and OT teams will naturally break down the language barrier between the two groups.

Step two, a slightly more complicated stage, is to converge your IT and OT processes. Doing so will require an independent third-party to harmonize the different risk calculuses. This independent third party can be the enterprise SOC, acting as a fusion center of sorts for both IT and OT security. By assuming a technology-agnostic monitoring posture, the SOC can translate IT to OT and vice versa, applying universal standards to managing both IT and OT cyber-risk. Other processes will naturally flow from this example, be it vulnerability management, change and configuration management, or incident response. 

These steps are a simple starting point, with much more to consider as both technologies converge and grow. But the outcome for doing nothing — leaving OT to outpace IT — will likely push your organization's overall security risk into prohibitive levels.

Related Content:

Check out The Edge, Dark Reading's new section for features, threat data, and in-depth perspectives. Today's top story: "Is Voting by Mobile App a Better Security Option or Just 'A Bad Idea'?"

Dave Weinstein is the chief security officer of Claroty. Prior to joining Claroty, he served as the chief technology officer for the State of New Jersey, where he served in the Governor's cabinet and led the state's IT infrastructure agency. Prior to his appointment as CTO he ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
HackerOne Drops Mobile Voting App Vendor Voatz
Dark Reading Staff 3/30/2020
Limited-Time Free Offers to Secure the Enterprise Amid COVID-19
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  3/31/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
6 Emerging Cyber Threats That Enterprises Face in 2020
This Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at six emerging cyber threats that enterprises could face in 2020. Download your copy today!
Flash Poll
State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
Data breaches and regulations have forced organizations to pay closer attention to the security incident response function. However, security leaders may be overestimating their ability to detect and respond to security incidents. Read this report to find out more.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-5347
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-04
Dell EMC Isilon OneFS versions 8.2.2 and earlier contain a denial of service vulnerability. SmartConnect had an error condition that may be triggered to loop, using CPU and potentially preventing other SmartConnect DNS responses.
CVE-2020-5348
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-04
Dell Latitude 7202 Rugged Tablet BIOS versions prior to A28 contain a UAF vulnerability in EFI_BOOT_SERVICES in system management mode. A local unauthenticated attacker may exploit this vulnerability by overwriting the EFI_BOOT_SERVICES structure to execute arbitrary code in system management mode.
CVE-2020-8142
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-03
A security restriction bypass vulnerability has been discovered in Revive Adserver version < 5.0.5 by HackerOne user hoangn144. Revive Adserver, like many other applications, requires the logged in user to type the current password in order to change the e-mail address or the password. It was how...
CVE-2020-8143
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-03
An Open Redirect vulnerability was discovered in Revive Adserver version < 5.0.5 and reported by HackerOne user hoangn144. A remote attacker could trick logged-in users to open a specifically crafted link and have them redirected to any destination.The CSRF protection of the “/...
CVE-2020-8147
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-03
Flaw in input validation in npm package utils-extend version 1.0.8 and earlier may allow prototype pollution attack that may result in remote code execution or denial of service of applications using utils-extend.