Operational Technology Cyber Security Alliance (OTCSA) Launches

A new global alliance focused on cyber security launched today. The Operational Technology Cyber Security Alliance (OTCSA) has been established to help companies address the OT security challenges that continue to put operations, and consequently, business at risk.

Cyber-attacks on critical and industrial infrastructure are on the rise, impacting operational reliability and business risk across all industries, including utilities, manufacturing and oil & gas. Threats to operational technology (OT) – the hardware and software dedicated to monitoring and controlling physical devices such as valves, pumps, etc. – can disrupt operations, negatively impact productivity, cause ecological damage and compromise human safety.

Smart sensors, robots, motors, electrical-power frequency converters, and other connected devices throughout modern OT environments are generating immense quantities of data. Analysis of data is delivering immeasurable benefits by enabling the highly flexible, optimised operation of factories, process plants, and other facilities.

At the same time, data is being utilised in ways that have blurred the boundaries between OT and IT (e.g., routing data from a factory’s network edge to the cloud). As the historical isolation, or “air gap,” that previously protected OT disappears, the increased convergence of IT and OT networks—along with the adoption of IT technologies into process control and automation systems—is making OT increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks.

The upshot is that, more and more, hackers are selecting industrial targets, including ICS used by power plants and factories. The resulting disruption affects not only businesses and their customers but also daily life in a society that is dependent on the uninterrupted functioning of infrastructure and the modern, global supply chain.

The current OTCSA membership consists of a dozen organisations, with a mix of device manufacturers, technology companies, consulting firms, and operators of industrial production environments. Current members of the OTCSA are: ABB, BlackBerry Cylance, Check Point Software Technologies, Forescout Technologies, Fortinet, Microsoft, Mocana, NCC Group, Qualys, SCADAfence, Splunk Technology, and Wärtsilä.

Eric Cornelius, CTO, BlackBerry Cylance commented,

“BlackBerry Cylance is honoured to join this multidisciplinary alliance with the mission to rethink the way we secure the world’s most critical systems. The OTCSA will provide important leadership and guidance for organisations working hard to protect their operational technology from sophisticated threats.”

The OTCSA mission is five-fold:

  • Strengthen cyber-physical risk posture of OT environments and interfaces for OT/IT interconnectivity
  • Guide OT operators on how to protect their OT infrastructure based on a risk management process and reference architectures/designs which are demonstrably compliant with regulations and international standards, such as IEC 62443, NERC CIP and NIST 800-53
  • Guide OT suppliers on secure OT system architectures, relevant interfaces and security functionalities
  • Support the procurement, development, installation, operation, maintenance and implementation of a safer, more secure critical infrastructure
  • Accelerate the time to adopt safer, more secure critical infrastructures

Until now, there has been no industry group focused on improving cyber risk posture by providing tangible architectural, implementation and process guidelines to OT operators so that they can navigate necessary changes, upgrades and integrations to evolving industry standards and regulations.

The purview of the guidelines will extend across the entire operational lifecycle. They will cover the OT spectrum, including ICS equipment, software, and networks, as well as IT equipment and networks used in or providing functionality to OT systems.

They will apply to both brown- and green-field installations and a wide variety of use cases in discrete manufacturing and process industries and utilities, among others. They’ll also address important but often-underemphasized domains, such as building management and facility access systems, control rooms, and medical equipment.

The OTCSA’s guidelines will align with existing industry-standard reference architectures, process frameworks, and protocols to ensure interoperability. They will also be crafted to take into account the key criteria of reliability, manageability, resiliency, and auditability.

In addition to providing valuable assistance to technical professionals on the front lines, OTCSA guidance will be presented clearly and concisely so that non-technical executives can use it to make better informed, management-level decisions.

Note as well that guidance and guidelines will be part of an ongoing effort, which will result in regular updates to ensure that the latest knowledge and best practices are incorporated as new and emerging areas are addressed.

OTCSA promotes collaboration amongst leading IT and OT companies, thought leaders in the cyber security community and vendors and OT operators from a variety of industries. Membership is open to any company that operates critical infrastructure or general OT systems to run its business (OT operators) as well as companies providing IT and OT solutions (solution providers).

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