Singaporean firms look to AI for stopping OT attacks

Industrial operations across Singapore are increasingly under regular and widespread cyberattacks, forcing operational shutdowns which result in lost revenue and significant remediation costs, a new report from Palo Alto Networks shows.

The report surveyed 1,979 operational technology (OT) and IT business leaders across 23 countries globally, including 101 leaders in Singapore. 

Results also show that operators face increased compliance requirements as well as new risks posed by their adoption of new technologies and processes, including AI, remote access, cloud, 5G, and robotics. 

As a result, industrial operators are increasingly conscious of the need to adapt cybersecurity to the new demands of the day.

According to Palo Alto Networks, key findings for Singapore from the report reveal a concerning landscape in OT security.

First, industrial operations are at high risk of cyberattacks, as 73.3% of Singaporean respondents stated that their organisations had experienced at least one cyberattack in the past year. Equally alarming is the frequency of these attacks, with over 60% of respondents experiencing attacks often monthly or weekly. 

Second, cyberattacks can shut down Singaporean OT operation, with over a third (35.1%) of Singaporean organisations having to shut down industrial operations in the last year due to a successful attack. 

This is driving industrial operators to increasingly focus on security for their OT environments — 60.4% of Singapore respondents consider it a high priority, and nearly half (49.5%) expect to increase spending on OT cybersecurity in the next two years. 

Despite this awareness, Singapore sits in the bottom half across ASEAN in OT security prioritisation, behind the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam. 

Third, friction between OT and IT is a challenge. When asked to describe the relationship between OT and IT, nearly half stated that it was either siloed or frictional, with only 12.9% answering that their teams are aligned. 

Further, only 36.6% of respondents reported shared responsibility for OT cybersecurity purchase decisions between the two teams. This disparity is due to the historical roles of both teams, with IT traditionally being in charge of company-wide security, while OT has historically focused on industrial operations. 

Fourth, AI is a double-edged sword, as the judgement on its value is split between fear of AI-enabled attacks and demand for AI-enabled protection. The survey found that 68% of respondents in Singapore identified AI attacks against OT as a critical issue today, but four out of five also agreed that AI will be key to stopping OT attacks.

Fifth, AI is not the only new technology making its way into OT environments, with operators also getting ready to implement cloud solutions, among others. 

The report found that 79% of organisations in Singapore believed the move to cloud will reinforce OT security. However, over half (54.5%) of them also stated it would create increased cybersecurity challenges in the next two years.  

And sixth, the report also underscores the criticality of embracing a Zero Trust approach to OT security, with 80% of industrial respondents endorsing it as the right strategy. 

However, deployment rates remain relatively low, with just over 15% having fully implemented Zero Trust solutions for their OT/IT environments.