OT Security Maturity - Aligning Operational Risk & Business Objectives

25 Oct 2023

The Importance of OT Security Maturity

Automation and AI are steadily revolutionizing operational technology, but attackers are leveraging these innovative approaches as well. As the OT security landscape continues to evolve, how can organizations defend themselves and successfully align risk with business objectives? In this blog post, OTORIO discusses the importance of OT security maturity and how to achieve it in an ever-evolving Industrial landscape. 


The OT Security Evolution

The past several years have seen organizations undergo a digital transformation at a rapid pace, with interconnected systems and processes that make use of the latest technologies. However, the convergence of IT and OT brings with it added cyber-physical risk, which requires that enterprises update their current security strategy. The OT threat landscape has become far broader and more sophisticated, with attackers capable of exploiting critical infrastructure vulnerabilities to cause widespread damage. The same automation tools used by organizations are being maliciously wielded by bad actors, leaving the OT community largely unprepared to protect its critical assets.

Meanwhile, governments and other regulatory organizations around the world have been increasingly instituting guidelines that seek to safeguard OT environments and protect critical infrastructure. OT-specific security solutions have emerged, such as security information and event management (SIEM) solutions, intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS), network segmentation, and anomaly detection systems. Organizations have also recognized the need for resilient incident response strategies that go beyond prevention and detection. As such, they have instituted training and education to arm employees with the skills to ensure the security of OT systems.

However, guidelines and training can only go so far. Today’s 1st generation security products hold promise, but security practitioners often lack the context in which to deploy them at scale effectively. They are fatigued by the plethora of alerts they receive, while executives and board members want concrete answers about the ROI of OT security solutions they have already invested in.

A shift in thinking is required to reach OT security maturity. Organizations need to focus on OT security solutions that are able to give tangible, quantifiable risk metrics that can be understood by the different stakeholders, including executives, so they can accurately represent the risk status to the Board of Directors.


OT Security Maturity

A mature approach to OT security is one that protects OT environments in a proactive, comprehensive way. There are several main attributes required to achieve OT security maturity:

  • Robust security policies that clearly define roles and responsibilities, outline security objectives and explain response procedures in detail. These policies should align closely with industry standards, such as IEC 62443 and NIST. 
  • A risk-based approach that prioritizes critical areas and security investments. This approach should consider asset criticality and vulnerability exposure and take into account the possible impact on safety, operations, and the environment. 
  • Ongoing awareness and training programs to ensure that all enterprise employees recognize the risks and follow consistent procedures for secure OT operations.
  • Proactive monitoring and real-time threat detection of OT environments, carried out by analyzing data sources such as system logs and network traffic, to detect and respond to any possible security incidents. 
  • Strong access controls such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), privileged access management, and other strict access and password policies.
  • Network segmentation to contain threats and minimize the attack surface that can isolate and safeguard critical infrastructure, such as firewalls and demilitarized zones. 
  • Incident response and recovery plans with clearly defined processes and technologies to effectively detect, respond to, and recover from security breaches. 
  • Continuous monitoring to evaluate their OT security posture and ensure that it is regularly updated to stay ahead of emerging threats.


While some organizations get a strong start by identifying assets and proceeding to the next levels of OT security, many fail to go on to achieve OT security maturity. There are several reasons why this may be. They may be unaware of the full extent of security frameworks such as NIST or assume that their current security measures are sufficient. They may face resource or budget constraints that prevent them from completing these intricate frameworks.

Organizations with diverse OT environments and complex legacy systems may face technical challenges in fully implementing robust security response and monitoring systems without sufficient specialized expertise. Interoperability issues between OT and IT systems may further hinder progress. 

Competing operational objectives may require organizations to prioritize other issues ahead of OT security needs. Some organizations face resistance from stakeholders who see these security measures as a hindrance to operational efficiency or are wary of investing in security due to workflow disruption or perceived costs. These stakeholders prefer to meet minimal compliance requirements rather than embrace a proactive approach. Whatever the reason, failing to achieve OT security maturity places OT enterprises and all the associated domains at ongoing risk.


Risk in Context

When presenting OT security needs to board members, risk can be quantified by presenting it in the context of operation. Log sources and network data serve to testify as to the attack surface, and these should be used to inform decision-making as to which controls must be put in place. As Michelle emphasized, effectively addressing risk to operations must go beyond products and services, focusing on platforms, frameworks, governance, risk, security, people, processes, and culture. 

A thorough OT risk assessment should be carried out to identify potential vulnerabilities, including both internal and external risks. Organizations should strive to ensure that a risk-aware culture exists among all employees and across all departments. OT risk management processes should be integrated into day-to-day operations, including risk identification, mitigation, reporting, and monitoring. These processes should be regularly reviewed and updated as needed. 

Ownership and accountability for risk management should be accomplished via clear risk governance procedures. Technological systems, such as monitoring tools, security controls, and incident response systems, should be leveraged, with automated processes used when possible. Risk performance metrics should be established and analyzed to evaluate incidents, identify security gaps, and recommend necessary improvements.

A Robust Solution For OT Security Maturity

OT security maturity requires a comprehensive and proactive approach that encompasses risk management, robust policies and frameworks, advanced threat detection, secure architecture, incident response capabilities, continuous improvement, and a culture of security awareness and training. Organizations must leverage platforms that can successfully demonstrate business risk to all stakeholders. Only when business units and executives have a tangible and contextual sense of OT security risks can business decisions be properly aligned with those risks.


The OTORIO OT Security Risk Management platform is built for OT, and it is capable of successfully communicating IT-OT cyber risk to all stakeholders throughout the decision-making process.  

OTORIO enables enterprises to think differently, making business decisions based on risk tolerance and a mature approach to OT security risks. This is because the team of experts behind OTORIO understands the importance of answering the unique needs of customers, including their business needs.

Ready to achieve OT security maturity? 


Schedule a Demo