Enterprise security operation centres (SOCs) are expanding their capabilities to the OT domain, but major visibility and skills-related challenges are causing roadblocks.

These are among the findings from a new Trend Micro study, “Breaking IT/OT Silos With ICS/OT Visibility”.

Yash Pillay, senior solutions engineer: African cluster at Trend Micro, says: “IT-OT convergence is already driving digital transformation for many industrial organisations, but to effectively manage risk in these environments, IT and OT security operations (SecOps) must also converge. OT security programmes may be lagging, but there’s a fantastic opportunity to close the visibility and skills gap by consolidating onto a single SecOps platform.”

As the use of IT and OT networks increases both in South Africa and globally, there is a continued expansion of the threat landscape. The study finds that half of the organisations now have an enterprise SOC that includes some level of ICS/OT visibility. However, even where respondents have a more “expansive” SOC, only half (53%) of their OT environments provided data for detection purposes.

This shortfall is also implicit in another finding: cyber event detection (63%) is the top capability that respondents want to integrate between IT and OT silos, followed by asset inventory (57%) and identity and access management (57%). Being able to detect events across IT and OT environments is the most critical to identifying root causes and preempting future threats that could potentially disrupt operations.

The report highlights endpoint detection and response (EDR) and internal network security monitoring (NSM) as crucial tools to help provide that root cause data. However, deployment of EDR on engineering and operator assets stands at less than a third (30%) of responding organisations.

NSM is rarely (less than 10%) deployed at a physical process and basic control level deep in OT environments.

Aside from visibility gaps, the study reveals major people and process challenges to expanding SecOps across IT and ICS/OT environments. Four out of the five top barriers highlighted by respondents are related to staff:

* Training IT staff in OT security (54%);

* Communication silos between relevant departments (39%);

* Hiring and retaining staff who understand cybersecurity (38%);

* Training OT staff in IT (38%); and

* Insufficient risk visibility across IT and OT domains (38%).

Legacy technology is also cited as a top challenge for expanding OT SecOps visibility.

The limitations of legacy devices and networks (45%) and IT technologies not designed for OT environments (37%) are named among the top three challenges here, alongside a lack of OT knowledge among IT staff (40%).

Going forward, respondents are doubling down on efforts to converge IT-OT SecOps and drive greater visibility into OT threats.

Two-thirds (67%) plan to expand their SOC, and for those who have already deployed EDR, 76% are planning to expand these deployments in ICS/OT over the coming 24 months. Additionally, 70% of those who have already added NSM capabilities plan to expand these deployments in the same time frame.