What is Operational Technology in ICS For Cyber Security & Critical Asset Management?

operational technology


Operational technology, or OT, refers to the hardware, software, computers, AI machine learning and other tools used in detecting changes in physical states of a system through the direct monitoring of devices and critical assets, including valves, pumps, temperature sensors, etc. in an industrial control systems (ICS) environment.

Classic industrial control systems include implementation of various technologies such as Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), programmable logic controllers (PLC), RTUs, distributed control systems (DCS), among other technologies.

Operational technology affects every industry with processes, including manufacturing, oil & gas, electrical & power generation, water & sewage, commercial & residential buildings, government offices,data centers and healthcare centers, among others.

Energy Industry Cyber Security                  cyber security for water utilities                  Building Management System Cyber Security

OT has become the established term demonstrating the fundamental technological and functional differences between traditional Information Technology (IT) systems and those of the industrial control systems, where the technology comes from operational assets rather than from informational networks. The main difference between the OT and IT systems is: process vs. network

Traditionally, OT systems have been standalone OT installations, independent of IT network systems. On one hand, traditional OT systems do not benefit from the monitoring and cybersecurity communications IT systems provide; however, because OT installations are independent of the network, they are also free of the security challenges that would come with the connection.

Thus, when a critical infrastructure based organization is looking for a complete solution, approaches from an IT perspective have been realigned or replaced to fit into the OT environment. While IT focuses on cybersecurity and keeping information safe and protected before it reaches the user, OT demands information be passed along as quickly as possible to prevent process break-down.

While that might work with newer organizations whose critical infrastructure was built with cutting edge technology, most organizations will not upgrade their critical infrastructure because of the costs involved, and there lies a huge gap in security – since there are very few solutions equipped with the ability to secure IT and OT through legacy infrastructure.  


Interested in learning how SIGA closes the gap to secure IT and OT assets? Learn more here.

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