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Operation Technology (OT) Cybersecurity Challenges for Leaders to Address in 2024

In today’s digital age, cybersecurity has emerged as a top priority for organizations across various sectors. Manufacturing companies, in particular, have experienced a significant increase in cyber attacks, with approximately 90% of them being affected in 2021 alone. The energy sector is also vulnerable to such attacks, as evidenced by the May 2021 ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, which led to the shutdown of pipeline operations. These incidents highlight the pressing need for enhanced cybersecurity measures, especially in operational technology (OT) systems.

This article delves into the key challenges faced by leaders in addressing OT cybersecurity in 2024. By exploring the insights from two reference articles, we will analyze the risks, priorities, and preparedness in the energy sector and manufacturing industry. We will also discuss the strategies and best practices required to secure OT systems effectively.

The Importance of OT Cybersecurity

Assessing Business Risks

According to a survey conducted by Fortinet, professionals in the oil and gas industry recognize OT cybersecurity as a top business risk. Around 60% of respondents placed OT cybersecurity within the top five risks they face. The prevalence of recent cyber attacks and regulatory changes were identified as the primary reasons for securing OT systems. These findings emphasize the criticality of prioritizing cybersecurity measures to safeguard industrial operations.

Best Practices and Implementation

The survey revealed that the industry is divided in terms of best practices and implementation. While some companies have made significant progress in protecting OT systems, others are still in the planning stage. Vulnerability assessment, incident response planning, and security analysis were identified as the most important activities for securing the OT environment. These activities enable early detection of attacks and provide crucial insights for effective response and mitigation.

Realistic Expectations

The Fortinet report suggests that OT professionals are realistic about the capabilities and challenges associated with OT cybersecurity. This realistic approach is vital in the energy sector, where cyber threats are fast-moving and volatile. The survey respondents acknowledged the need for continuous improvement and the implementation of new solutions to mitigate evolving OT risks.

Challenges in OT Cybersecurity

Technical Barriers

Enhancing OT cybersecurity presents multiple challenges, including technical barriers. Legacy systems, which may be over 30 years old, often have outdated vulnerabilities and limited security controls. These systems are susceptible to attacks, as cybercriminals can exploit the weaknesses in these older technologies. Additionally, limited ability to implement security controls on legacy OT devices and unclear ownership between OT and IT teams further complicate the process of securing OT environments.

Operational Complexities

Operational challenges pose another hurdle in OT cybersecurity. Many industrial organizations struggle with managing the responsibilities of the IT and OT teams. The integration of manufacturing execution systems with enterprise resource planning without proper demilitarized zones can create vulnerabilities. Moreover, the competing business priorities of OT decision-makers, such as increasing productivity versus implementing security measures, make it challenging to strike a balance between operational efficiency and cybersecurity.

Investment Constraints

Investment constraints, including the shortage of trained cybersecurity professionals with automation-control-system-specific experience, add to the complexity of OT cybersecurity. Industrial organizations often face difficulties in finding individuals with the required expertise in both cybersecurity and specific OT systems. This shortage of skilled personnel hampers the implementation of robust cybersecurity measures.

Strategies for Enhancing OT Cybersecurity

Strengthening Technological Foundations

The first key principle in enhancing OT cybersecurity is strengthening technological foundations. Organizations must focus on secure-by-design implementation and configuration for OT environments. This involves implementing proper access controls and standardized security measures. The segmentation of OT networks from other networks and within the OT environment is crucial for secure convergence between IT and OT systems. Additionally, deploying asset and threat detection, as well as cybersecurity controls and capabilities, provides a comprehensive understanding of the cybersecurity posture within a plant’s assets.

Clarifying Role Responsibilities

Assigning clear responsibilities is essential for effective OT cybersecurity. This principle revolves around clarifying the roles and responsibilities of OT and IT teams, as well as external partners. By establishing a clear governance structure and operating model, organizations can ensure a quick response to cyber incidents. Strengthening cybersecurity governance and fostering collaboration and coordination between teams are vital aspects of this principle.

Increasing Risk-Aware Capabilities

The final key principle for enhancing OT cybersecurity is increasing risk-aware capabilities and mindsets. Organizations must incentivize stakeholders to proactively identify and reduce cyber threats. This can be achieved through expert-driven internal OT capabilities, which require upskilling and compensation packages to attract and develop cybersecurity expertise within the organization. Establishing accountability mechanisms for vendors and implementing cybersecurity awareness programs for all stakeholders are also crucial in promoting a culture of cyber risk awareness.


As cyber threats continue to evolve, leaders in the energy sector and manufacturing industry must prioritize OT cybersecurity in 2024. By addressing the challenges, such as technical barriers, operational complexities, and investment constraints, organizations can establish a secure OT environment. Strengthening technological foundations, clarifying role responsibilities, and increasing risk-aware capabilities are the key principles that leaders should embrace to enhance OT cybersecurity. By adopting these strategies and best practices, organizations can effectively protect their critical infrastructure from cyber threats and ensure the safety of industrial operations.

CTA: To learn more about ICS security best practices and how to protect your critical infrastructure, Contact us today:1(647)948-6768,

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