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IT and OT: Finding Common Ground - Cybersecurity for Digital Manufacturing

As part of a new cybersecurity project, AMT hosted a webinar with a panel of experts focused on finding common ground between IT and OT.
Sep 13, 2021

Information technology (IT), meet operational technology (OT). Together, you can enhance cybersecurity for digital manufacturing and realize the oft-touted productivity gains of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).  

Now that the introductions are out of the way, it’s time to turn what has too often been a matchup between two warring approaches to a match made in cybersecurity heaven. During the first webinar in its new cybersecurity project, AMT – The Association for Manufacturing Technology gathered a panel of experts to discuss the divide between OT and IT. Here are their key takeaways:

  1. Two Ts Collide – IT and OT are both about technology, but that’s where the similarities end. The panel of experts cautioned that OT in modern factories and shops can “look” like IT, but it is still OT. There are big, expensive machines on the other side of the sleek keyboards and touchpads. Also, most companies don’t have actual OT departments, so IT is typically interfacing with manufacturing leaders (production managers, maintenance, plant managers, or cell leaders). 

  2. What is Priority #1? Depends on who you ask. For experts on the IT side of the house, security is the first priority. For OT professionals, productivity is king. IT and OT often have different missions and very different cultures. 

  3. A Middle Ground. To find the fabled middle ground, IT and OT have to let go of some assumptions. IT has to stop assuming that there is any pre-existing security included in the machines on the shop floor. OT has to stop believing that cybersecurity threats are exaggerated, and that security isn’t their job. 

  4. Security AND Productivity – Successful cybersecurity plans will include necessary security but also consider required productivity. IT and OT both need a seat at the table. Security protocols  such as message inspection and firewalls for certain devices can impact productivity. Unlike IT, OT can’t be rebooted and patched constantly, and it certainly can’t be replaced regularly. Many of the traditional methods of ensuring IT security would gravely impact productivity.  Cybersecurity solutions must work in the real world.

  5. Identifying the interface – The IT/OT interface is where your policies, practices, and procedures come together. Manufacturers must decide where IT and OT meet. Largely due to the volume and complexity of emerging security threats, IT is coming ever closer to machines on the shop floor. For instance, a lot of security providers are now offering IT tools to protect programmable logic controllers (PLCs), so dangerous messages never get into OT systems. Every manufacturer has to decide where to draw the line.

Learn more about cybersecurity best practices from AMT’s recent article. Understand what is at stake through our analysis of recent cyberattacks.  Stay tuned for future webinars on addressing cybersecurity issues and addressing threats.

Benjamin Moses
Director, Manufacturing Technology
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