technically speaking 2

In this industrial blog, learn how to make your technology systems work for you. Become faster, smarter, competitive, and cost-effective in today's rapidly changing marketplace by learning from our experts' collective experience. Bookmark our page (or better yet, subscribe) because we post new articles every Thursday!

Understanding Industrial Cybersecurity

Graham Zimmerman
Posted by Graham Zimmerman on Oct 7, 2021 1:54:21 PM

Let's face it - the topic of cybersecurity can be really scary. But just because it’s spooky season 🎃 doesn’t mean you have to stay scared! Especially because October is also National Cybersecurity Awareness month, it's the perfect time to learn and #BeCyberSmart. In today’s beginner-friendly blog post, we will unravel the basics of understanding industrial cybersecurity and remote connectivity so you can stay empowered and protected against cyber threats. 

cyber security Jump To Section: 

Download a FREE On-Demand Cybersecurity Webinar

Learning the basics (IT vs. OT)

How to Approach Cybersecurity

Using Layered Defense

Control What You Can, Manage What You Can’t

Get Elite Cybersecurity Support

Tools & Resources


IT vs. OT

Information Technology (IT): Refers to anything related to computing technology, such as networking, hardware, software, the internet, or the people/departments that work with these technologies.

Operational Technology (OT): Refers to anything that monitors and manages industrial process assets and manufacturing/industrial equipment. 

OT has been around for much longer than IT technology, as it's been around ever since humans began using electricity to power tools used for production and agriculture.

Blurred Lines

blurryWhat was once two very distinct categories, today, information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) are more intertwined than ever before. For example, there are components in control cabinets that are essential to operations (OT), but are also communicate information over ethernet, making them also IT.

As machines and systems become more networked and cloud-integrated, the lines continue to become blurred, and the issues IT departments face with protecting the office networks from cyber attacks, become similar issues faced on the machine shop floor.

Differing Security Requirements

Although the lines are getting blended, IT and OT technologies, and the departments that implement them, often have separate needs and priorities. For example, OT's priorities are often machine safety, efficiency, and preventing machine downtime. IT's security focus revolves around systems and procedures to protect data from cyber security breaches or attacks.

CIAFor example, for OT applications, performing a hard restart is often more catastrophic for the system, while restarts are commonly used in the world of IT. Short bursts of system-down is also more tolerable in IT than it is in OT.

IT & OT: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!

teamworkWhen bringing IT technology into the world of OT, the best way to ensure cyber safety is by involving your IT team to help to create overall safe industrial networks.
IT & OT network teams must work and communicate together to build a comprehensive, secure industrial network - there's no way around it!

Here are two tips to facilitate IT & OT team collaboration:

1. Connect. Begin a relationship between your OT & IT teams. Workshops, field visits, and one-on-one conversations can go a long way.

2. Understand. Learn each team's security goals. Where do they differ, and where do they connect? How can your departments help one another accomplish these goals?

Merging the two teams will help your networks be more secure and lead to less opportunity for cyber security threats or attacks. 


How to Approach Cybersecurity 

There are many ways to approach industrial cybersecurity. How do you know where to start?

Here are three tried-and-true procedures to tackle cybersecurity:

1. Holistic Security ApproachHolistic Approach

This approach asks OEMs, integrators, and machine end-users to look at the “big picture.” The holistic security approach highlights company assets and how your cybersecurity efforts apply to them. The three categories of company assets you want to highlight are technologies, persons, and processes. With this approach, outlining all of your security assets makes sure they effectively work together, not against one another. 

2. Utilizing Cybersecurity Standards

Another way to approach cyber security is through following industrial cybersecurity standards. These standards include IEC 62443, NERC CIP, NIST CSF, CIS CSC 20, ISO 27000 series, etc.  And according to the SANS ICS Security Survey, the NIST CSF continues to be the dominant framework in use. However, asset owners usually combine the different frameworks to develop a company-specific Security Policy. Additionally, regional, industry regulatory requirements are additional focus points for the IT and OT security teams.  

3. Defense-in-Depth

Defense-in-depth, also referred to as a castle approach, is a concept in which multiple layers of security controls (protection) are placed around your critical assets and throughout an IT system. For example, implementing a firewall in an ICS network is a small step towards securing an OT network. However, with this approach alone, complete cybersecurity protection isn’t guaranteed.


Use a Layered Defense


In addition to the methodologies above, another best practice is the layered defense strategy, which uses different components to protect operations with multiple layers of security. This approach aims to isolate different layers depending on the networks you are running. For example, the type of layers in this defense strategy might include IT network, industrial network security, control networks, physical security, device security, and critical assets.

This approach is considered a cybersecurity best practice because it separates IT and OT networks, reducing risk and mitigating damages. Additionally, if one layer goes down, you can use this approach to isolate those processes and assess the threat while running operations, preventing downtime and saving money.

The layered defense strategy is as good as it gets, however, it can’t be replicated overnight. In fact, it sometimes takes two to three years to create a fully functional layered defense strategy. So what can you do right now to help protect yourself from cyber threats? Control what you can!

Control What You Can, Manage What You Can’t. 

control what you can controlTo help protect yourself against cyber threats right now, control what you can by implementing physical security, Escort vendors and visitors throughout your facility, lock cabinets, disable extra ports, and look into using managed ethernet switches that give advanced security functionality like port security. For Wifi networks, be sure to secure the SSID, and use encryption higher than WPA2, also use secure password management. Additionally, implement firewalls on the Industrial Control network to allow only authorized users and traffic.

Finally, use SECURE remote connectivity for remote service of a machine. Teamviewer is NOT secure for industrial applications!

TeamViewer_Logo_512x512If you haven't heard about Teamviewer, it's a common software used for remote control, desktop sharing, online meetings, etc. This is a good tool for many because it's easy to use and convenient for remotely connecting with employees. Still, it is not secure compared to a VPN (a virtual private network), which has authentication and encrypted processes.

Although VPNs may not be as easy to use as the application TeamViewer, the data and content sent through these VPN channels are safe from corruption in transit.

Additionally, IPsec VPNs are highly secure, encrypted, and extremely helpful when preventing cybersecurity threats. 


For further explanation on cybersecurity best practices, watch our free on-demand webinar: Cybersecurity & Remote Connectivity Basics

cybersecurity thumbWatch our On-Demand Webinar

Technology to check out for secure remote connectivity:

mguard2If you need an easy and secure VPN system for your machines, I highly recommend checking out the mGuard by Phoenix Contact. Start by reading our blog post about it:

FL mGuard by Phoenix Contact | How to Establish & Secure a Remote Network


We're here for cybersecurity support

Airline Hydraulics is an Elite Distributor for Phoenix Contact, a provider of many solutions for secure remote connectivity. Contact our product experts and shop Phoenix Contact mGuard and secure cloud services on Airline’s website with access to real-time availability from Airline or factory stock, pricing documentation, accessory items, and more.

Tools & Resources 

Contact Us! 

Ask your Airline Rep. or contact us for assistance with ordering or customizing an order. 

  • 800-999-7378


Topics: Automation, IoT, Explainers, Phoenix Contact

Leave Comment