Operational Technology (OT) security is one of the key components of cybersecurity, it requires a different approach due to its unique characteristics. Primarily, OT security is all about keeping physical processes safe, unlike Information Technology (IT) security, which focuses on protecting digital information. Both technologies have their own specific priorities, aiming to protect assets and defend against cyber threats, but how does OT differ from IT security?

This article will explore OT cybersecurity, explaining its basics and how it differs from IT security. This will also highlight the roles, approaches, and the importance of securing both IT and OT environments, emphasising their overall organisational security.


OT vs IT Cybersecurity: The Basics/Key Differences

OT, or Operational Technology, focuses on the hardware and software that supervise, command, and regulate physical processes, especially in industrial environments examples include manufacturing facilities, power plants, and transportation networks. It involves the machinery that keeps these essential systems running. 

On the other hand, Information Technology (IT) is used to process, manage, store, and protect information in what is generally a stable environment. focusing on the safekeeping and movement of digital data. This pertains to the computers, networks, and databases that enable data manipulation and communication, thus IT generally has a short lifecycle and standard operating systems that require frequent updates. While both OT and IT contribute to overall cybersecurity strategies, they address different aspects of an organisation’s technological system.

The following are the key differences of both technologies:

  • Scope & Priority – Operational Technology (OT) revolves around overseeing real-world processes, like managing infrastructures. OT systems prioritise reliability and safety, as failure could result in physical harm or environmental disasters. In contrast, Information Technology (IT) deals with digital information and networks, encompassing servers, and cloud services. IT systems prioritise data integrity, confidentiality, and accessibility.
  • Attack Impact – Successful cyberattacks in OT can have catastrophic consequences, leading to industrial accidents or infrastructure destruction. On the other hand, IT attacks can result in data breaches, financial setbacks, and compromised privacy.
  • Network Architecture – Due to their critical nature, OT networks have traditionally been isolated from public networks, but due to several factors, OT networks are no longer air-gapped, which means they are now connected to broader networks, like the internet. IT networks on the other hand, are known  to be interconnected and are often exposed to external threats. This differentiation hihglights the distinct strategies required to safeguard these two domains effectively.

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OT Cybersecurity Solutions

Operational Technology (OT) security carries unique strategies in line with their specialised roles and unique characteristics. The focus is on limiting operational disruptions while prioritising safety. Below are some of vital components of OT cybersecurity solutions:

  • Network Security Measures – Network protection is an important aspect of OT for keeping sensitive systems safe. These systems are responsible for controlling critical processes in different operational technology (OT) environments. The main goal of these measures is to set up barriers, separate systems, and enhance security.
  • Remote Access Management – Remote access is an integral part of OT systems, this enables troubleshooting and programming support. Secure remote access measures include establishing secure communication channels, permitting only authorized users to connect, closely monitoring session activities, and enforcing corporate guidelines on connected devices.
  • Recovery Procedures – One of the main phase of the cybersecurity framework involves restoring operations and eliminating any lingering threats. In OT, recovery begin with comprehensive backups, which are sometimes manual or irregular in nature. OT recovery often requires manual work to restore core components like controller settings, and programming.

These strategies cater to the unique demands of OT cybersecurity solutions, acknowledging the critical nature of the processes involved and the need to maintain both functionality and safety.


IT Cybersecurity Solutions

Information Technology (IT) cybersecurity focuses on securing digital data, networks, and systems. The primary focus lies in maintaining the confidentiality, integrity, and accessibility of information. Below are some of the key strategies for IT cybersecurity:

  • Firewalls and Antivirus – The incorporation of firewalls and the utilisation of up-to-date antivirus software play a pivotal role in thwarting unauthorised access and the infiltration of malicious software.
  • Encryption – By encrypting sensitive data, an additional layer of security is added; even if intercepted, the information remains indecipherable without the designated decryption key.
  • Patch Management – Consistently updating software and applications with security patches functions as a safeguard against known vulnerabilities, bolstering defence against potential breaches.

These strategies highlight the essence of IT cybersecurity solutions in protecting digital assets, maintaining data integrity, and ensuring operational processes digitally


OT/IT Convergence and Emerging Challenges

The boundaries that once separated Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT) are becoming less distinct. This convergence of domains, termed IT/OT convergence, brings out new challenges. While it undoubtedly enhances operational efficiency and accessibility, it simultaneously broadens the potential target area for cybercriminal activities. 

The merging of OT’s industrial operations with IT’s digital systems requires a strong cybersecurity approach. This approach should protect important physical processes and valuable digital data, addressing the changing threats from this combination. It’s important to understand these areas well and take proactive steps to strengthen their overall security.



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Key Takeaway

It is important to understand that Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT) are different. These two areas have separate but connected roles in keeping our digital and physical worlds safe. OT cybersecurity solutions are about making sure important processes are safe and reliable, while IT ensures data integrity and privacy. 

As technology continues to progress, the convergence of these two fields presents both opportunities and challenges that require a holistic approach to cybersecurity. By embracing the unique strategies and solutions offered by both OT and IT cybersecurity, we can create a safer and better digital future.





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