Protecting OT Assets, Networks and Remote Operations with Zero Trust OT Security

Digital transformation and connectivity in OT environments bring great promise.

Warehouse staff can remotely manage robots and drones with augmented reality (AR) cameras using high-speed 5G connectivity, freeing staff from fixed OT terminals. OT (operational technology) asset incidents can now be remotely diagnosed, maintained and remediated, saving time and money by eliminating the need to send personnel out for on-site maintenance at geographically distributed facilities. OT assets have automatic shut-off signals in case a worker safety emergency is detected. These innovations, fueled by OT asset connectivity to the cloud and 5G, dramatically improve operational efficiency, reduce costs and enhance worker safety.

But the increasing connectivity also brings great risk to operations.

Industries such as manufacturing, energy and utilities face an incredible challenge today — security breaches in their OT environments that could halt their operations. A sudden stoppage in operations due to a breach can impact revenue, brand, supply chain SLAs and worker safety. According to the FBI Internet Crime Report, 2021, the US manufacturing sector saw 60+ attacks in 2021 since the Colonial pipeline hack in May 2021 — that is, about 10 successful ransomware attacks every month!

CXOs are aware and concerned but struggle to protect their OT environments.

CXOs face a precarious balancing act of maintaining availability, uptime and safety while deploying and maintaining world-class security. Their security teams face three major challenges — lack of visibility of OT assets, inadequate security and coverage for new attack surfaces, such as remote operations and 5G and cloud-connected OT assets, and the operational complexity of deploying and managing siloed security solutions.

Delivering 24X7 operational outcomes with effective security requires adopting a Zero Trust approach. This is the only way to protect connected OT environments across OT plants and remote sites, remote operations and emerging 5G and cloud-connected OT and IoT assets comprehensively and consistently.

Palo Alto Networks provides the most comprehensive Zero Trust security solution across your OT assets, networks, remote operations and 5G.

Rooted in “never trust, always verify,” Zero Trust helps to protect modern OT environments by leveraging three fundamental principles.

  • Least privilege access control that leverages contextual segmentation and minimum access policies for resources.
  • Continuous trust verification of OT assets’ identity, behavior and risk postures.
  • Continuous security inspections of all network traffic and OT processes, even for allowed communications, to prevent zero-day threats.

These principles are built on strong visibility of OT assets, OT remote apps and risk exposures.

While most vendors stop at step one and follow the “allow and ignore” model, Palo Alto Networks OT Security is the smartest, most comprehensive Zero Trust solution for your OT assets, networks and remote operations. Our Zero Trust capabilities securely enable your digital transformation while maintaining uninterrupted operations.

Palo Alto Networks Zero Trust OT Security solution allows you to achieve:

  1. Comprehensive visibility. There are three types of OT and IoT assets in a typical OT environment.
    1. OT assets which are mission critical, such as distributed control systems (DCS), industrial control systems (ICS), human-machine interfaces (HMI), programmable logic controllers (PLC), remote terminal units (RTU), supervisory control and data acquisition systems (SCADA) and historian jump servers.
    2. Premise management systems include heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) and lighting, sprinkler and fire alarm systems.
    3. Common enterprise IoT devices include security cameras, printers, VoIP phones and tablets.

Palo Alto Networks Zero Trust OT Security solution combines machine learning (ML) with crowdsourced telemetry to identify all your IT and OT assets, apps and users. It recognizes 300+ unique asset profiles and 1000+ OT/ICS applications. This helps you establish a comprehensive inventory of OT assets and understand what assets are most critical for your business operations. In addition, Zero Trust OT Security assesses OT asset risk by monitoring behavior, internal and external communications and alerts in case of deviation from normal process behavior. The asset identification and risk assessment process are passive and non-intrusive to your OT operations.

  1. Zero Trust Security for your OT assets and networks. The Zero Trust OT Security solution establishes and enforces Zero Trust — based on ML-powered OT asset visibility and risk assessment. It secures your OT perimeter with an effective segmentation of the OT networks from your corporate IT, and secures your OT assets with further zoning and fine-grained segmentation based on OT asset risk, protocol context and process criticality. This helps prevent the lateral movement of threats from your IT network to your OT network. The solution automatically suggests least privilege access policies based on the risk analysis. You can then enforce policies with patented Device-IDTM natively on your Palo Alto Networks NGFW. The auto-policies help you secure your legacy, vulnerable and hard-to-patch OT assets communicating to external allowed apps and networks. It further strengthens the security of your OT network with continuous security inspection by identifying more than 650 OT-specific threat signatures and preventing zero-day threats.
  2. Zero Trust security for your remote operations. The Zero Trust OT Security solution enables you to fully realize the principle of least privilege by identifying remote applications based on App-IDs at Layer 7 and their interactions with the OT assets in your plant or site. It helps you secure remote access with consistent Zero Trust least privilege access to your OT environments for third parties, remote experts and manufacturing workforce to support OT operations. You can enforce policies consistently across apps, assets and users using App-ID, Device-ID and User-ID. The solution provides deep and ongoing inspection of all traffic, even for allowed connections, to prevent all threats, including zero-day attacks such as C2C via DNS and malware payload.
  3. Zero Trust security for your 5G-connected assets and network. Our solution establishes and enforces Zero Trust security with granular segmentation policies based on complete visibility of 5G traffic by identifying Subscriber-ID, Equipment-ID, applications and 5G services across your plants and remote sites running on Private Enterprise (CBRS/ LTE/ 5G) & MEC. This helps you reduce your attack surface, prevent unauthorized access and prevent lateral movement of threats. The Zero Trust OT Security solution continually assesses mobile OT asset posture and accelerates incident response by correlating, isolating and quarantining infected OT assets from your OT network.
  4. Simplified Operations: The Zero Trust OT Security is delivered on a unified Network Security platform with superior security and consistent policies for OT environments, including OT assets, apps and remote connectivity. The solution works the way you do, no matter how you architect your OT environment, from partially air-gapped to fully modern 5G-enabled locations.

The benefits of digital transformation and connectivity in OT environments is undeniable, but so are the risks. A Zero Trust approach to securing vulnerable OT assets provides the best possible protection against known and unknown threats and helps ensure continuous operations. In addition, a Zero Trust approach increases IT and OT staff efficiency and allows organizations to extract the maximum benefit from all assets with the least risk of exposure to cyberthreats.

Curious to learn more about Zero Trust OT Security? Check out these resources.