4 Operational Technology (OT) Cybersecurity trends in 2024

03 - Jan 2024

In the ever-evolving landscape of industrial systems, the year 2024 presents a unique set of challenges that demand a keen understanding of the intricate connections between machines and their environment. As we stand at the crossroads of technological advancement, the need to address unprecedented complexities in industrial operations has never been more critical. Amidst these challenges, one foundational layer emerges as the linchpin—Level 0. In this article, we embark on a journey to navigate four main hurdles expected in 2024 and explore how the Level 0 advantage becomes not just a solution, but a strategic imperative for overcoming the intricacies that define this era in industrial communication. Join us as we unravel the principal challenges that define this new year and discover how listening to the machines at Level 0 emerges as a beacon of resilience in an era of uncertainty.

  1. Ransomware attacks are on the rise

In recent years, the cybersecurity landscape has been marred by a significant surge in ransomware attacks. Claroty recent 2023 year in review report has demonstrated that in 1,100 participants who are CISOs of critical infrastructure facilities, 54% have reported to experience a ransomware attack that affected their OT systems. This staggering figure further emphasizes how common this type of attack is, and why it is a cardinal preoccupation for this coming year of 2024.

The rise in ransomware attacks is fueled by the increasing monetization of cyber crime, facilitated by cryptocurrencies that provide a level of anonymity and ease of transactions for the attackers. To combat this escalating threat, organizations must adopt a proactive stance, implementing robust cybersecurity measures, regular employee training programs, and ensuring the availability of secure backup systems. Collaboration between the public and private sectors is crucial for sharing threat intelligence and developing collective defenses against the evolving tactics of ransomware attackers. As the cyber threat landscape continues to evolve, a holistic and adaptive cybersecurity strategy is paramount to reinforcing critical infrastructure against the pervasive and damaging impact of ransomware attacks.


  1.  Geopolitical conflicts evolve into cyber attacks

The increasing interconnectedness of the global community has given rise to a concerning trend where traditional geopolitical conflicts manifest themselves in the digital realm through cyber-attacks. Nation-states and politically motivated groups leverage cyber capabilities as a strategic tool, allowing them to exert influence, gather intelligence, and disrupt adversaries without the need for conventional warfare. Examples for such attacks were widespread throughout 2022 and 2023, from the attack on the electric grid of Ukraine by Russian state actors analyzed by Mandiant, to the recent USA-Israel advisory on staggering attempt to hack PLCs in the American and Israeli water sector. This phenomenon blurs the boundaries between physical and virtual battlegrounds, posing complex and immediate challenges to critical infrastructures, who are forced to acknowledge the potential for escalation of tensions in this borderless and often anonymous domain.

Addressing the issue of worldwide conflicts expressing themselves in cyber attacks requires a multifaceted approach that combines diplomatic efforts, technological advancements, and international cooperation. Nations are performing tedious work to engage in dialogue to establish clear rules of engagement in cyberspace, defining what constitutes acceptable behavior and consequences for violating these norms. Simultaneously, investing in robust cybersecurity measures, intelligence sharing, and collaborative incident response mechanisms becomes paramount. Recognizing the interconnected nature of our digital infrastructure, the global community must work together to build a resilient and secure cyberspace that can withstand the geopolitical tensions seeping into the virtual world, ensuring stability and safeguarding the provision of critical resources like electricity, water, chemicals, oil&gas, pharmaceuticals, data centers, manufacturing, and transportation.

  1. Imposing stringent regulations

The landscape of data privacy and cybersecurity has undergone a seismic shift in recent years, prompting regulatory bodies worldwide to enact stringent measures to safeguard individuals’ personal information and ensure the integrity of digital ecosystems. One of the most notable regulatory frameworks is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), implemented by the European Union but influencing global standards. Compliance with such regulations is no longer a mere best practice but a legal requisite for organizations that handle sensitive data. Failure to meet these standards can result in severe penalties, legal repercussions, and irreparable damage to an organization’s reputation.

With several regulations coming into effect this 2024 (e.g., NIS 2, CSF 2.0, etc.), nation state and territories intend to reinforce the critical sectors under their jurisdiction to minimize the cyber threat posed by malicious actors. 2024 seems to be a steppingstone in terms of cyber regulation, with governments realizing the overarching cyber occurrences can hit deeper and harder than ever before, aligned with technological development and world tensions. Setting strict regulations will require critical facilities not only the alignment of technology and processes with regulatory requirements but also a cultural shift within organizations to prioritize data privacy as a fundamental aspect of their operations. Regular audits and assessments are essential to ensure ongoing compliance, as regulations continue to evolve in response to emerging cyber threats and technology advancements. To achieve and maintain compliance with data protection regulations, organizations must adopt a comprehensive and proactive approach. As the regulatory landscape continues to evolve, organizations that prioritize compliance will not only mitigate legal risks but also establish themselves as responsible stewards of data in an increasingly interconnected and data-driven world.

  1. The importance of Level 0 visibility and monitoring

In the dynamic and ever-evolving realm of cybersecurity, the concept of Level 0 monitoring represents a paradigm shift in how organizations approach the detection and prevention of cyber threats. Traditionally, cybersecurity strategies heavily relied on reactive measures, identifying and responding to incidents after they occurred. Level 0 monitoring, however, introduces a proactive approach that focuses on preventing threats before they can manifest into security incidents. This sophisticated monitoring approach utilizes advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to sift through vast amounts of data, recognizing patterns indicative of malicious activity. By leveraging these technologies, organizations can identify potential threats at their nascent stages, allowing for immediate response and mitigation. This proactive stance not only reduces the impact of security breaches but also enhances the organization’s overall cybersecurity posture by staying ahead of evolving threats.

2024 marks the cornerstone of Level 0 monitoring positioned in the OT cybersecurity core, as an essential approach that will be widely adopted by critical infrastructures. as an essential tool for OT cybersecurity. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) SP 800-82r3 Guide to Operational Technology (OT) Technology already mentioned the importance of Level 0 monitoring in section 5.3.6, the obstacles faced by critical infrastructures sectors are diverse and severe, requiring for a holistic strategy that integrates advanced technologies with comprehensive threat intelligence and a well-defined incident response plan. This approach empowers organizations to move beyond traditional security measures and adopt a more anticipatory and preventive mindset, aligning with the modern cybersecurity imperative of not just responding to incidents but actively thwarting them before they can cause harm. As organizations increasingly embrace Level 0 monitoring, they enhance their resilience against cyber threats and position themselves at the forefront of proactive cybersecurity practices.

The cybersecurity landscape for 2024 demands proactive strategies to counter escalating challenges. The surge in ransomware attacks necessitates robust defenses and collaborative efforts. Worldwide conflicts manifesting in cyber-attacks highlight the need for global cooperation and norms. Compliance with data protection regulations is a legal imperative, urging organizations to prioritize privacy and security. The paradigm shift to Level 0 monitoring emphasizes proactive defense, using advanced technologies to thwart threats before escalation. In this dynamic environment, a holistic and adaptive cybersecurity approach is crucial to effectively address the diverse challenges laying ahead in this new year of 2024.