Identity and access management (IAM) is a critical component of any organization’s cybersecurity strategy, but it is particularly important in the realm of operational technology (OT).
What is operational technology (OT)?
OT refers to the systems, devices, and networks used to control and monitor physical processes in industries such as manufacturing, energy, and transportation. These systems are often referred to as “industrial control systems” (ICS) and are critical to the operation of many organizations.
However, OT systems are also vulnerable to cyber threats, which can have serious consequences. For example, a cyber attack on an OT system could result in the loss of valuable data, production downtime, and even physical damage.
This is where IAM comes in. IAM involves the processes and technologies used to manage and secure access to systems, networks, and data. It includes the identification, authentication, and authorization of users, as well as the management of user permissions and access rights.
In the context of OT, IAM is essential for ensuring the security and reliability of critical systems. It helps to prevent unauthorized access to OT systems, which could compromise the integrity of the systems and the data they contain.
Here are a few key reasons why IAM is important in OT:
- Protect against cyber threats: As mentioned above, OT systems are vulnerable to cyber threats, which can have serious consequences. IAM helps to prevent unauthorized access to OT systems, which can mitigate the risk of cyber attacks and protect against the loss of valuable data and production downtime.
- Ensure compliance with industry regulations: Many industries that rely on OT systems have specific regulations and standards in place to ensure the security and reliability of these systems. IAM helps organizations to meet these requirements and ensure compliance.
- Maintain the integrity of OT systems: IAM helps to ensure that only authorized users have access to OT systems and that they are only able to perform actions that are within their defined permissions. This helps to maintain the integrity of the systems and prevent unauthorized or malicious changes.
- Improve efficiency and productivity: IAM can help to streamline the process of granting and revoking access to OT systems, which can improve efficiency and productivity. It can also help to reduce the risk of errors and mistakes, as users are only able to access the systems and data they need to perform their duties.
- Centralized management of OT access: IAM allows organizations to centrally manage and control access to OT systems. This includes the ability to easily add and remove users, as well as define and enforce access policies. This can improve security and make it easier to manage access to critical systems.
- Improved security through authentication and authorization: IAM helps to ensure that only authorized users are able to access OT systems. This is achieved through the use of authentication techniques such as passwords, biometrics, and multi-factor authentication. In addition, IAM allows organizations to define and enforce access policies, which can further improve security by limiting the actions that users are able to perform.
- Reduce the risk of insider threats: Insider threats, such as employees or contractors who abuse their privileges or access systems without permission, can pose a significant risk to OT systems. IAM can help to reduce this risk by carefully managing and monitoring access to the systems and detecting and preventing unauthorized access or activities.
- Support incident response efforts: In the event of a cyber attack or other security incident, IAM can play a critical role in responding to the incident and mitigating the damage. It can provide a record of who had access to the affected systems and when, which can help to identify the source of the incident and take appropriate action.
IAM for IT vs. OT – are they the same?
The answer is no. IAM is more than a technology and a tool set. Organizations that try to implement IAM solutions in OT the same way they did in IT are attempting to fit a square peg in a round hole.
Implementation of IT IAM processes in an OT environment usually is met with push back from OT teams or by bypassing IAM controls with shadow access processes. IAM processes such has how access is requested, approved and granted for OT, and most importantly, how users access systems in remote parts (middle of nowhere with no connectivity to receive an SMS for MFA is a classic example) are very different than what we see in IT. Unless OT IAM processes are implemented to make life easier for OT practitioners, organizations continue to stand risk of non-adoption. This can lead to self-inflicted business disruptions and a degraded customer experience.
Contact us to learn how effective implementation of ObserveID’sIAM solution enables your organization to answer key questions about:
- who has access to what
- how they got that access
- whether that access is still needed and
- how to remove unneeded access quickly and consistently.