Bridging the Asset Inventory Divide Between IT and OT

An accurate asset inventory lays the foundation of any cyber risk management program. However, while IT teams commonly have extensive visibility into hardware and software assets on enterprise networks, operational technology (OT) environments lack this basic oversight.

Unpatched Windows systems, undocumented IoT devices, obscure proprietary protocols, and unfamiliar embedded gear intermingle on the plant floor. With production continuity the priority over security in OT environments, blind spots exist. As external threats explode, understanding the distinct OT challenges inhibiting asset visibility is imperative.

IT: Network Scans and Central Oversight

Inventory management comes naturally in IT environments. Server scans, endpoint agents and centralized oversight deliver hardware/software insight down to granular details. But these IT approaches falter in industrial terrain, where availability rules and a wide variety of technology prevails. Industrial facilities house devices never designed for scrutiny, let alone cyber risks.

OT: Black Box Opacity and Distributed Gear

Control panels filled with drives, sensors and switches enabling automated assembly, comprise complex, interdependent “black boxes”. Their proprietary designs focus solely on physical output, not inspect ability. With remote facilities each containing unique logic, securing OT as a collective pushes operations teams outside their expertise and comfort zones.

Cultural Disconnects

Just as important, the individuals securing enterprise data and running plant operations come from separate worlds with conflicting KPIs. IT workers value responsiveness, adaptation, along with the latest software and hardware. OT engineers respect hierarchy, emphasize precision and seek incremental gains that don’t disrupt revenue-generating machinery. Cybersecurity measures can easily disturb closely managed environments.

Collaboration - The Convergence Mandate

However, with infrastructures colliding as sensors and system connectivity permeate production, division has become untenable. Neither culture can address modern dangers alone. Though technical integration raises threats, only transparency, communication and unified data policies can manage risks. To ensure organization-wide cybersecurity, IT and OT must align to balance security and continuity, even where disconnects or differences in approach exist. Together, they can close visibility gaps with the guidance and help of experienced outside experts, like Velta Technology.

Practical Progress

How can resource-strapped teams demystify OT to the uninitiated while securing critical assets? Thoughtful discussion with cautious action and honest desire to understand the OT environment, by the IT team, can start to build trust. IT teams should begin participating in maintenance events when possible, to grasp manufacturing or critical infrastructure equipment intricacies. Budgets should be set for monitoring tools that passively glean asset intelligence without disruption of the OT environment. OT teams shouldn’t hesitate to educate IT counterparts on proprietary environments, clarifying resource constraints.

No quick fixes exist - yet small steps by both groups can build cyber resiliency. That stability can support industrial environment modernization where it makes sense. Progress requires give-and-take. With a cross-team leadership vision, asset visibility across IT and OT can lead to more confident cyber preparedness. With more accurate visibility into vulnerabilities and risks, teams can prepare and make more informed decisions as technology changes continue to roll out and greater risks emerge.

Steps to Help Bridge the IT/OT Gap

Bridging the asset inventory divide between IT and OT requires recognizing their differing priorities and limitations while finding common ground. Some practical steps that can set this convergence in motion:

First, establish routine forums for mutual understanding. Regular meetings between IT and OT leaders are essential for clarifying priorities around production, technological constraints, and the need for a cohesive cybersecurity incident response plan. Site visits by IT to OT facilities helps demystify the industrial environment while allowing OT engineers to showcase intricacies face-to-face.

Next, vet monitoring solutions that deliver asset intelligence without hampering output. Solutions that can monitor the OT environment without production interference, are the priority for stable production environments. Segmented architectures allow visibility for IT without exposing the production environment to threats. Carefully managed minor network upgrades improve resilience and monitoring capability simultaneously.

Additionally, implement centralized audit logs to unify asset data points. As disparate monitoring solutions come online, ensure they feed information into common dashboards. Standardize asset metadata from both places to drive informed decisions.

Most importantly, embed security orchestration that accounts for OT at scale. Integrate emergency protocols across units to automate containment and remediation sequences that minimize incidents without human intervention. This lessens reliance on informal relationships during crises.

While outcomes require perseverance across teams, closing asset inventory gaps remains imperative as infrastructure converges. Mutual transparency through data and communication allows for unified policies and response. With commitment and consistent action with these steps, securing industrial manufacturing and critical infrastructure against modern threats becomes a feasible possibility.