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Cyber threats are becoming an urgent problem for operating technology (OT), the hardware and software that controls industrial machines and equipment. OT ransomware attacks rose by 87% in 2022, and cyber incidents cost businesses a staggering $140 million in damages on average. In this milieu, businesses and governments are eager to implement effective industrial cybersecurity solutions. But unfortunately, the OT environment is notoriously difficult to secure.
“OT cybersecurity is fundamentally different from IT security because in an industrial setting, there are multiple operating systems and proprietary data protocols to manage,” says Ray Lin, Vice President of Sales at CASwell, a hardware manufacturer that specializes in networking, security, and industrial IoT applications. “In some circumstances, even basic security measures like server and network patching can be challenging. It’s also difficult to implement or upgrade OT security systems, because in a high-value manufacturing environment, downtime is unacceptable.”
The good news for the manufacturing sector is that hardware specialists and industrial cybersecurity experts team up to meet these challenges with purpose-built OT security appliances. These flexible, high-performance solutions offer manufacturers the security they need—and also foster dynamic new business relationships.
How Partnerships Boost OT Cybersecurity
Case in point: CASwell’s collaboration with an industrial cybersecurity company and Intel to develop an OT security solution for a large semiconductor manufacturer. The manufacturer was using IT infrastructure to protect manufacturing equipment but realized this approach no longer provided the level of security required in its high-stakes industry. On the hunt for a dedicated security solution, the company approached the cybersecurity company, an industrial specialist focused on addressing the challenges of OT convergence.
In #manufacturing settings, flexibility is essential—both to meet the diverse requirements of different manufacturers and also to facilitate upgrades of existing deployments. CASwell Inc. via @insightdottech
CASwell and its partner had deep experience in OT cybersecurity, including developing an intrusion prevention system (IPS) for industrial use. Due to its work in the Japanese automotive industry, the security provider also had an extensive database of manufacturing protocols, allowing it to secure a wide array of industrial equipment. But the semiconductor manufacturer had a unique and challenging requirement: It wanted a security appliance with 96 ethernet ports to secure multiple network segments from a single device.
CASwell and the cybersecurity partner worked together to engineer a solution. With support from Intel’s engineering teams, CASwell found a way to implement the unprecedented 96-port configuration the customer wanted. The large number of ethernet ports enables effective and easy-to-manage network micro segmentation, a foundational security practice that involves breaking OT networks into sub-networks. That improves threat visibility and can stop cybercriminals from spreading malware from one workload to another—an important concern for factories running thousands of processes.
Intel CPUs provided the low-latency, edge computing performance the solution needed. CASwell and its partner’s IPS software runs on the security appliance and inspects data packets on network segments for malicious activity in real time. The IPS software also protects legacy devices running unpatched software with virtual patching technology. OT network data is inspected for attacks based on known vulnerabilities, stopping suspicious traffic before it reaches the vulnerable equipment.
In addition, CASwell designed the security appliance to ensure high availability and withstand harsh conditions in industrial environments. Ruggedized design and thermal protections enable higher operating temperatures than standard IT servers and firewall devices can support, while redundant power sources protect against unexpected downtime.
After CASwell and its partner’s security appliance successfully resolved this complex problem, the semiconductor manufacturer decided to use it to secure liquid, electrical, and gas systems at the facility as well.
Flexible Solutions Enable Multiple Use Cases
It’s no accident that the OT security system CASwell and its partner developed could be deployed beyond its intended use case. The solution was designed for flexibility from the ground up.
In manufacturing settings, this kind of flexibility is essential—both to meet the diverse requirements of different manufacturers and also to facilitate upgrades of existing deployments. The large, 96-port solution developed by CASwell and its partner, for example, is also available in 16-port and 48-port configurations.
This flexibility also means that the potential for OT security applications extends far beyond the semiconductor industry. For example, CASwell sees use cases for its security appliances in automotive manufacturing, critical infrastructure (CI) security, and sensitive manufacturing operations such as chemical and pharmaceutical plants.
The company’s technology partnership with Intel has been crucial in this respect. “This solution would not exist without Intel. They offer a powerful and versatile suite of CPUs and network control devices, enabling tremendous flexibility in terms of the different combinations we can offer our customers,” says Lin. “Along with Intel’s excellent technical support during the development process, that lets us offer tailored ODM solutions to our partners to fulfill their mission-critical OT applications.”
The Future of OT Cybersecurity Solutions
As the need for OT cyber protections grows, collaborations like the one between CASwell and its partner are likely to become increasingly common.
“The IT security market is relatively stable, but OT cybersecurity is an emerging market with huge growth potential,” says Lin. “We see numerous possibilities for partnerships with systems integrators and software developers.”
That’s good news for the industrial sector—particularly for businesses just getting started with digital transformation of their manufacturing processes. These organizations will enjoy the benefits of an increasingly mature OT cybersecurity marketplace, with OT systems integrators and their technology partners ready and waiting to deliver customized solutions.
“Attacks on OT networks are on the rise, but OT cybersecurity providers are responding,” says Lin. “In the future, companies will be able to leverage increasingly sophisticated security solutions to move from simple protection to proactive defense.”
This article was edited by Teresa Meek, Editorial Contributor for insight.tech.