Operational Technology – A Fascinating Business Consideration – Part 1

In a series of short blogs Killian O’Leary, Partner with Barden’s IT Practice takes a closer look at operational technology (OT) and zones in on some key areas of consideration for organisations today. First up Killian takes a closer look at ‘What is OT’ and why is it now a pressing consideration for organisations?

What is Operational Technology (OT)?

In the U.S. the potential for a cyber-attack on critical infrastructure is a growing concern.

The Obama administration issued the Presidential Policy Directive (PPD)-21 – Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience. The directive states, “The nation’s critical infrastructure provides the essential services that underpin American society. Critical infrastructure must be secure and able to withstand and rapidly recover from all hazards.”

Those hazards include cyber-threats.

A key component in protecting critical infrastructure from cyber-attack is protecting the automated systems used to monitor and control critical processes. Systems that control such processes fall under the general category of ‘Operational Technology’ (OT).

Right now, there appears to be differing views on the importance of ‘OT’ and the differing attitudes can be seen in the budget allocation for investment in ‘OT’ from company to company.

Defining OT…

Wikipedia will tell you that it is  “Hardware & software that detects or causes a change, through the direct monitoring and/or control of industrial equipment, assets, processes and events”.

The term has become established to demonstrate the technological and functional differences between traditional IT systems and the Industrial Control Systems environment.

Examples of Operational Technology include:

PLC’s, SCADA, scientific equipment, building management and building automation systems, (BMS)/(BAS) and transportation systems for the built environment.

Why is OT now a pressing consideration for organisations?

Most companies have contingency plans for power outages and other physical process interruptions but lack the ability to quickly remediate OT incidents, despite the potential for real-world damage.

Put simply, while companies are great at keeping the lights on, they struggle to bridge the security gap between physical systems and connected controls.

These are companies operating in a world of industrial environments that produce things that keep our economies going every day, whether it’s our electricity, water or manufacturing of oil & gas or other devices. But these environments are very dangerous, so there’s a big safety focus.

A wide range of sectors are being impacted – “Energy and utilities, healthcare life sciences, chemical and petroleum, industrial products, automotive, manufacturing, electronics, building system and consumer products” are all affected.

If your OT is compromised, it ends up being a problem because you can’t get power to your hospital, therefore, organisations are now starting to pay even more attention to it.

About Killian 

Killian O’Leary | IT Partner | Barden 

Having worked and trained with a number of international businesses, Killian moved into recruitment in 2011 and has held a number of leadership roles, both locally and nationally, since. Killian is a founding member of Barden’s IT recruitment practice, is a subject matter expert in Cyber Security (Cloud, Network, Infra, O/t) & Senior Tech careers, is a qualified and active career coach and advises CIOs and tech leadership teams on attracting and retaining world class talent. Get in touch with Killian at killian.oleary@barden.ie.

 

 

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