Navigating Operational Technology and Cybersecurity

Security in the Fourth Industrial Revolution


“We are facing and working in a world where people who are planning to hack or attack the system are very well connected.”


What are the defining features of operational technology cybersecurity strategies? 


From grappling with direct, indirect and supply chain threats to preparing the C-suite for inevitable data breaches, the technology leaders of this roundtable debate explored the evolving role of the CISO. They navigated the changing landscape of operational technology, emphasising the importance of safety, availability and a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity. 


Operational technology and cybersecurity: meet the panellists

With Mark Chillingworth moderating this roundtable discussion, the speakers included:


  • Kevin Jones, Global CISO, Bayer
  • Allan Cockriel, CIO Global Functions and CISO, Shell
  • Chander Sharma, VP - UK & France Region, L&T Technology Services 
  • Venkatasubramanian Ramakrishnan, Head - Global Cyber Security Consulting, L&T Technology Services 


Watch the roundtable highlights for Security in the Fourth Industrial Revolution



Key takeaways: operational technology

  1. Operational technology and cybersecurity
  2. Threat detection and analysis


Operational technology and cybersecurity

Kicking off the roundtable debate, moderator Mark Chillingworth asked the panellists: “What features must those operational technologies have in a cyber strategy and why?”


Organisations need to “reimagine and strategize” the way they improve their digital transformation and ITO integration journey according to L&T Technology Services Head of Global Cyber Security Consulting, Venkatasubramanian Ramakrishnan.


Highlighting the potential disruptive nature of operational technologies on operations, lives, and economies, Venkatasubramanian suggested focusing on safety and availability in operational technology, contrasting with the data-centric focus of IT.


“Companies like Bayer not only have operational technologies for production and manufacturing, but it's also a safety critical product that we make at the end.” Global CISO Kevin Jones explained that OT is at the forefront of any cybersecurity strategy.


Kevin advised CISOs to approach cybersecurity from a four-domain perspective: IT, product security, OT cybersecurity and people. The role of the CISO, he argued, is evolving to cover all aspects of security across these domains.


CIO and CISO at Shell, Allan Cockriel, explained how operational technology is shaping his cybersecurity strategy. “OT is incredibly important and as a CISO and a CIO as well, it's important that we reposition it for the important technology stack that it is.”


Despite highlighting OT’s important role in solving the “energy trilemma”, Allan described it as a high-risk and high-value capability that needs to be recognised as such. 


Threat detection and analysis

“We apply the Purdue model to make sure that our assets are correctly segmented, so they are secure and they have the ability to operate in a secure and seamless way.”


Further on into the debate, Allan outlined the importance of establishing strong security foundations when it comes to analysing and detecting threats.


With the increasing integration of robots and additional capabilities, the technology is evolving, requiring adjustments to connect more assets securely. He commented on the shift in direction for OT assets saying that they are moving towards a more “software-defined world”.


Kevin acknowledged the evolving landscape of operational technology and its increasing integration with IoT. “The world of OT was always… special, it was different, you don't touch it.” Operational technology environments are now interconnected to the cloud.


“If I look at future innovation, you can bring in things like digital twins to improve the efficiency of the OT environments.” Kevin argued that in today's world, with increased interconnection, the concept of an “air gap” has essentially disappeared.


For Venkat, monitoring and responding to potential threats in operational technology requires setting up security sensors, which Kevin and Allan alluded to earlier in the roundtable discussion. “It is a pretty stable system where things are easy to identify the anomaly.”


He highlighted the need to comprehend end-to-end systems, including how sensors collect and push data and the resulting impact on operations. “The response cannot be done automatically like a typical IT security response.”


Mark commented that the number of attack surfaces is increasing. He put forward the following question to Chander Sharma, VP - UK & France Region at L&T Technology Services: “Are we seeing the number of cyber attacks increase?”


“We are facing and working in a world where people who are planning to hack or attack the system are very well connected.” Chander acknowledged an increase in cyber attacks and highlighted the challenges of addressing operational technology security.


OT security varies across industries, requiring a tailored approach based on the specific environment of each sector. “What happens in the oil and gas in the process industry does not happen in the transportation industry.”


When laying down the rules for operational technology governance and measures, Chandar argued that industry knowledge is of utmost importance. 


When faced with the well-connected nature of the hacking community, he warned the panellists about the need for caution in consuming digital services, especially considering the maturity of users in handling IT security. “Even though IT security is quite matured… the users are not.”

This roundtable debate was sponsored by L&T Technology Services.


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