Securing Singapore’s OT and critical assets

The convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) has revolutionised the tech industry. This merger offers numerous benefits such as data accessibility, process simplification, scalability, cost reduction, and organisational integration.

However, security professionals have raised concerns about the associated risks. The blending of IT and OT environments opens new avenues for cyberattacks, evidenced by a 20% increase in system intrusions reported by global plant and OT leaders. A 2021 Operational Technology Survey by Fortinet found that 86% of Singaporean OT organisations have experienced an intrusion. Amidst its digital transformation journey, the Singapore government recognises the need for advanced security measures to mitigate these risks and protect critical assets.

Understanding the risks: As Singapore ventures deeper into the digital realm, acknowledging the potential vulnerabilities that come with the convergence of IT and OT is essential. A survey by KPMG Singapore revealed that nearly half of the 25,000 respondents felt a lack of expertise in managing the expanding attack surface. A global survey by Fortinet found a 20% increase in system intrusions from the previous year as network environments transition from closed to open systems. These statistics highlight the urgency of addressing these risks.

Importance of securing OT: To safeguard Singapore’s digital future, organisations must prioritise the security of critical assets and operational technologies. Data from Kroll Inc reveals that data loss and business interruptions are the top concerns for 55% and 52% of local organisations, respectively. These concerns underscore the need for robust cybersecurity strategies. Moreover, the impact of reputational damage, slightly below these concerns at 41%, highlights the real consequences of security breaches.

Addressing the legacy blind spots: In Singapore’s ongoing efforts to secure OT environments, recognising and tackling challenges from legacy SCADA and ICS devices is essential. One significant drawback of legacy systems is their limited built-in security controls, making effective patching or monitoring of these devices challenging. Even when patches are available, maintenance costs can be prohibitively high, and the implementation process may take several years.

Navigating the challenges of OT security: As OT environments increasingly integrate with IT systems for external access, the risk of cyberattacks becomes a pressing concern. These threats range from recycled IT malware like EKANS ransomware to targeted OT attacks such as Stuxnet, as well as lateral movements that exploit vulnerabilities in both IT and OT networks. Adding to the complexity, legacy OT systems often lack the capability to patch zero-day threats.

Investing in a secure future

Overcoming these challenges requires a shift towards a comprehensive security infrastructure tailored for OT environments. This involves implementing robust security measures like intrusion detection systems, network segmentation, and real-time monitoring. These solutions offer enhanced visibility and control over OT networks, ensuring prompt detection and addressing of potential vulnerabilities.

Investing in advanced threat intelligence and analytics enables proactive threat detection and response, reducing the risk of cyberattacks. By utilising these technologies, organisations can identify anomalous activities, detect potential intrusions, and respond swiftly to minimise impact on critical assets and operational technologies.

Furthermore, organisations should conduct regular assessments and audits to identify potential weaknesses and ensure timely mitigation of vulnerabilities. Investing in advanced threat intelligence and analytics also facilitates early detection of emerging threats, enabling proactive incident response and minimising impact on critical assets.

Education and training are also key components of an effective OT security strategy. By fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness among employees and stakeholders, organisations can establish a strong line of defence against social engineering attacks and human errors that could compromise OT systems.

In conclusion, the need to secure critical assets and operational technologies from cyberattacks is paramount. With the growing integration of IT and OT, organisations face unique challenges in OT security. By adopting a comprehensive and tailored approach to OT security, organisations can protect their critical assets, mitigate risks, and ensure continued operational resilience against evolving cyberthreats.