OT Cybersecurity for Ports: What You Need to Know

If you had heard or read news related to cyberattacks on ports about a few years earlier, you would have dismissed it as a rumor. But, in the current day and age, they are not hypothetical or the stuff of fictional narrative. Cyberattacks on ports are a reality.

There have been many instances of cyberattacks on ports that raise serious concerns. For example, the renowned Maersk company faced a cyberattack in June 2017. The NotPetya virus was used to carry out the attack. NotPetya entered Maersk’s systems through a popular accounting software used in Ukraine. 

The virus then spread globally through the Maersk network. This made various software and data unavailable for use for several days. Operations were halted at major ports where Maersk operates. This led to an estimated loss of around 200 to 300 million dollars for the company.

There have been similar other incidents of cyberattacks on ports globally. Cybercriminals infect port assets with sophisticated viruses, malware, and trojans. This had led to severe losses to the organizations impacted.

What Is OT Cybersecurity and What Are Its Key Features?

Nowadays, ports have a complex system of intranet and internet devices. If any one of the devices on the network gets attacked, it poses a risk to other devices. This can lead to:

  • Decrease in the speed of operations
  • Reduction in the efficiency of operations
  • Impact the ability of the port to carry out operations
  • Affect the health and safety of the employees

Moreover, a cyberattack can have a negative impact on port assets like:

  • Port control and administration
  • Cargo reception, handling, and storage
  • Supply chain facilities
  • Security control and administration

Organizations need to implement strict OT security measures in place to prevent attacks from happening. This includes incorporating advanced OT security tools into the system. The OT security tool helps collect, monitor, and manage OT endpoint and network data. This helps apply security controls effectively. Organizations can better protect their cyber-physical systems and industrial control systems (ICS) with OT security tools.

What Are the Benefits of Using OT Security Tools?

Using an OT security tool provides a plethora of benefits to organizations in the maritime and ports industry. These benefits help strengthen the cybersecurity measures and better protect against cyberattacks. Some of the benefits of using OT security tools are:

  1. Automating Data Collection and Management

OT security tools help simplify the data collection and management process by automating the task. The tool automatically collects and manages inventory data in a structured, easy-to-understand format. This provides greater visibility over business-critical data. Additionally, it also reduces the time and resources that are otherwise wasted in manual data collection methods.

  1. Data Visualization

OT security tools provide enhanced visibility over operating assets and infrastructure. Organizations can easily mitigate the emerging vulnerabilities of affected assets with data visualization. They can also see any missing critical patches and fix them as soon as possible, thanks to an OT security tool.

  1. Anomaly Detection

OT security tools help in the easy and rapid detection of anomalies in the OT network and the endpoints. Thus, organizations can take quick action to resolve them and protect their business-critical assets.

  1. Improve IT-OT Collaboration

Ensuring IT security is as important as OT security. OT security tools help enhance IT-OT collaboration, ensuring better overall protection. The tools provide security teams access to various business-critical, contextual information like:

  • Where the device is located
  • How important the device is
  • Who owns the device

Thus, cybersecurity teams can better ensure IT as well as OT security due to enhanced, transparent, and detailed information.

  1. Provide In-Depth Cyber Risk Information

OT security tools provide in-depth information about the various cyber-risks faced by individual assets and devices. They can, thus, take concrete steps to ensure the security of individual devices.

Moreover, the OT security tool also provides visibility into risk levels by plant, business unit, or company. This proves beneficial for large organizations that have their operations spread over multiple locations.

What Are the Challenges Regarding OT Security?

The major challenges faced by cybersecurity teams with regard to OT security are:

  1. Multiple Vendor Systems

Most organizations use multiple vendor systems across different operation locations. For example, an organization may use a different OT security vendor for operations in Hamburg, Germany and another in Shanghai, China. This reduces the efficacy and efficiency of the OT cybersecurity measures and makes it difficult to monitor and manage OT assets.

  1. Geographically-Dispersed Plants

Most organizations in the maritime and ports industry are spread across the globe. They run their operations through these different locations. Thus, it becomes difficult to monitor, manage, and protect cyber-physical devices and industrial control systems spread across different geographic locations.

  1. Hard-to-Reach Endpoints

Some of the endpoints may be difficult to track, manage, and protect even for the organization. Such devices provide an easy entry point for cybercriminals to infiltrate the system.

How Can Ports Improve Their OT Cybersecurity?

Employing an OT security tool is only half the job done. Organizations associated with maritime and ports can use the following approach to improve their OT cybersecurity.

  1. Carrying Out a Technology-Based Risk Assessment

Organizations need to replace the traditional risk assessment methods with technology-based risk assessment. This helps get greater, detailed visibility over the company infrastructure and assets.

The benefits of technology-based risk assessment include:

  • More accurate risk visibility
  • Rapid remediation
  • On-going, real-time assessment
  1. Taking Quick Actions

Organizations need to take rapid actions regarding vulnerabilities, insecure configurations, and weak user account controls, among others found in the risk assessment process. Any delay in fixing the issues can lead to severe consequences.

  1. Assigning the Right Personnel

Organizations need to hire the right individuals, with the right skills and competencies, to strengthen their OT cybersecurity measures. Such individuals can better protect your organizations against cyberattacks than inexperienced ones.

Parting Thoughts

Cyberthreats for ports are real. Thus, organizations can’t ignore cybersecurity to protect themselves from cyberattacks. Without the right measures, they will fall prey to such attacks and risk losing millions of dollars. They will also face other intangible losses, such as reputational damage, which can take years to recover from.

Thus, start working, improving, and strengthening the OT security measures ASAP!

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