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Empowering Industrial Resilience: Safeguarding OT Environments with Splunk

empowering industrial resilience

In the quickly-changing landscape of modern industry, where the rhythmic hum of machinery meets the continuous flow of data, stands Operational Technology (OT). Operational Technology orchestrates the coordination of industrial processes, silently ensuring the efficiency and reliability of critical infrastructure across areas such as manufacturing, energy, and utilities. However, as interconnected systems become the norm and cyber threats loom large, the security of operational technology environments has emerged as a leading concern for organizations worldwide.

Should I Be Concerned with OT Security?

Operational technology, while indispensable for driving industrial operations, is not immune to vulnerabilities. In fact, the convergence of operational technology with IT systems and the proliferation of interconnected devices has exposed operational technology environments to an array of cyber threats, ranging from malware and ransomware to insider attacks and even espionage. Unlike traditional IT systems, which are often designed with security in mind, many operational technology systems were originally deployed in isolated environments with minimal consideration for cybersecurity. This inherent vulnerability makes operational technology infrastructure an attractive target for malicious actors seeking to disrupt operations, steal sensitive data, or generally cause harm.

One of the foundational pillars of operational technology security is asset visibility – the ability to identify, inventory, and monitor all devices and systems within an operational technology environment. Splunk’s OT Security solution provides organizations with comprehensive asset visibility, allowing them to gain insights into the myriad components that comprise their industrial infrastructure. By capturing and analyzing data from sensors, actuators, controllers, and other operational technology devices, Splunk enables organizations to create a real-time inventory of their assets, identify potential vulnerabilities, and prioritize remediation efforts effectively.

In the ever-evolving landscape of cyber warfare, proactive threat detection is essential for protecting operational technology infrastructure against emerging threats and sophisticated attack vectors. Splunk’s OT Security solution leverages advanced analytics, machine learning, and behavioural analysis techniques to detect anomalies, suspicious activities, and potential security breaches within operational technology environments. By correlating data from disparate sources – including network traffic, system logs, and endpoint telemetry – Splunk enables organizations to identify indicators of compromise, detect insider threats, and respond to security incidents in real time.

Despite best efforts to prevent security breaches, no organization is immune to cyber-attacks. In the event of a security incident, a swift and effective response is critical for minimizing damage, restoring operations, and preserving business continuity. Splunk’s OT Security solution equips organizations with the tools and capabilities needed to mount a rapid and coordinated response to security incidents within operational technology environments. From automated alerting and case management to forensic analysis and remediation workflows, Splunk streamlines the incident response process, enabling organizations to contain threats, mitigate risks, and recover from security breaches with confidence and agility.

Splunk to the Rescue

In the quest to fortify operational technology security, Splunk, as usual, emerges as an ally armed with a formidable array of tools and technologies. Through a holistic approach encompassing asset visibility, threat detection, and incident response, Splunk empowers organizations to safeguard their operational technology environments with unparalleled precision and efficacy in much the same way that Enterprise Security currently safeguards IT infrastructure.  Here are a few ways in which Splunk’s OT Security Add-on for ES can help to mitigate vulnerabilities:

OT Centric View of Assets

Splunk’s OT Security solution offers an intuitive and comprehensive view of assets within the operational technology environment. From detailed overviews to asset-specific tags and views, organizations can gain actionable insights into their operational technology infrastructure, including perimeter and infrastructure monitoring capabilities. Once you identify to the addon which devices, IPs, and ports compose your operational technology infrastructure, the power of Splunk ES takes over to provide a central repository for the security of your organization.

The operational technology addon seamlessly integrates with Splunk Enterprise Security, extending its capabilities to include features such as Risk-Based Alerting (RBA), OT-specific dashboards, and industry-specific reports. By leveraging these tools, organizations can prioritize security alerts based on risk factors specific to the operational technology environment, enabling more efficient incident response and threat mitigation.

MITRE ATT&CK Correlation Rules

Leveraging the power of correlation rules, Splunk enables organizations to detect and respond to threats specific to the operational technology environment. With pre-built correlation searches, including those aligned with MITRE, organizations can identify anomalous activities including Internet activity within the operational technology environment and take proactive measures to mitigate risks.

Key Security Indicators

Splunk’s OT Security solution provides prebuilt Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) tailored to measure security-related metrics specific to operational technology environments. These KPIs offer organizations valuable insights into the effectiveness of their security measures and enable proactive risk management.

Baselining

Establishing configuration baselines for operational technology hosts is essential for maintaining the integrity and security of operational technology infrastructure. Splunk facilitates the interactive creation of configuration baselines within its platform, empowering organizations to identify deviations from baseline configurations and detect potential security threats. As your organization changes, these baselines can be updated to prevent unwanted alerts.

NERC/CIP Compliance Dashboards and Reports

Compliance with NERC CIP standards (North American Electric Reliability Corporation Critical Infrastructure Protection) is essential for organizations operating in critical infrastructure sectors. Splunk’s solution includes pre-built dashboards and reports tailored to address NERC CIP requirements, covering a wide range of standards such as CIP 002, 004, 005, 006, 007, 008, 009, and 010.

Splunk is Everywhere All at Once

To illustrate the power of Splunk in operational technology security, let’s explore some real-world use cases. From thwarting unauthorized access in manufacturing plants to fortifying the resilience of energy grids against cyber-attacks, Splunk empowers organizations to proactively safeguard their most critical assets and infrastructure.

Safety is a top priority in many operational technology environments due to the sometimes hazardous nature of the work environment. The Splunk OT Add-on allows organizations to monitor safety-critical systems and processes, such as ventilation systems, gas detection sensors, and emergency shutdown systems. By analyzing data from these systems in real-time, organizations can detect anomalies, identify potential safety risks, and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, thereby enhancing worker safety and reducing the risk of accidents.

Other operational technology environments might be subject to strict environmental regulations governing air and water quality, waste management, and land reclamation. The Splunk OT Add-on enables organizations to monitor environmental parameters such as water flow rates, air emissions, and soil contamination levels. By analyzing environmental data in real-time, organizations can identify potential environmental risks, mitigate impacts, and demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements, thus minimizing the risk of environmental incidents and liabilities

Maintaining product quality is essential in some operational technology sectors. The Splunk OT Add-on enables organizations to monitor critical control points in processing and production, such as temperature, humidity, pH levels, and sanitation processes. By analyzing real-time data from operational technology sensors, production equipment, and quality control systems, organizations can detect deviations from standard operating procedures, identify potential contaminants or hazards, and take proactive measures to mitigate risks and ensure compliance with food safety regulations.

With the increasing complexity of global supply chains, traceability has become a significant concern for food manufacturers and distributors. The Splunk OT Add-on allows organizations to track and trace the movement of raw materials, ingredients, and finished products throughout the supply chain. By integrating operational technology data from production systems, logistics providers, and distribution channels, organizations can gain visibility into product origins, production processes, and transportation routes, enabling rapid response to safety incidents, product recalls, or regulatory inquiries.

Smart buildings rely on sophisticated Building Automation and Control Systems (BACS) to monitor and control various building systems, including HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning), lighting, access control, and security systems. The Splunk OT Add-on enables organizations to integrate operational technology data from BACS sensors, actuators, and controllers, allowing real-time monitoring, analysis, and optimization of building operations. By correlating data from different systems, organizations can identify energy inefficiencies, detect equipment failures, and implement automated control strategies to optimize building performance, reduce energy consumption, and improve operational efficiency.

With the increasing digitization of healthcare systems and the growing threat of cyber-attacks, cybersecurity has become a critical concern for healthcare organizations. The Splunk OT Add-on provides organizations with tools to monitor and protect healthcare operational technology infrastructure, including electronic medical records (EMRs), medical imaging systems, and networked medical devices. By analyzing network traffic, system logs, and security events in real time, organizations can detect and respond to security threats, unauthorized access attempts, and data breaches, thus safeguarding patient information and maintaining compliance with healthcare privacy regulations, such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

Conclusion

The imperative of securing our most critical assets and infrastructure has never been clearer. With Splunk as our steadfast ally, organizations can navigate the complexities of operational technology security with clarity, confidence, and resilience. From streamlined asset management to proactive threat detection, Splunk empowers us to embrace the future with optimism and assurance, knowing that our operational integrity remains safeguarded in an ever-changing world.

Marek Suchomski is a Technical Account Manager at Solsys, where he has been dedicated to helping clients leverage Splunk deployments for over three years. With a strong development background, Marek brings a deep understanding of both the technical and business aspects of the industry. As both a manager and a Splunk-certified Admin, Marek is committed to assisting his colleagues in navigating the evolving landscape of cybersecurity.

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