In recent decades, the need to control processes remotely to improve efficiency and productivity and to accelerate decision making on industrial systems has led to the interconnection of operation technologies (OT) with information technologies (IT). Communication protocols originally conceived for the IT area began to be used in plant equipment. A clear example of this is the protection systems in the electrical sector, which in the past were analog and isolated from the information systems. However, the current ones have digital technology with communication protocols that allow them not only to fulfill their protection functions, but also to be linked to remote supervision systems.
This interconnection has given rise to a series of security risks in industrial control systems and, as a way of facing these challenges, specific tools and technologies have been developed and adapted to help ensure cybersecurity in industrial environments. One of these tools are the Security Operations Centers (SOC), which have been adapted to the particularities of OT networks, to enable monitoring, detection and response to threats in industrial control systems.
What is a soc ot and why is it important in industrial cybersecurity?
A Security Operations Center for Operational Technologies (SOC OT) is an entity specialized in the management and protection of industrial control systems (ICS) and operation technologies (OT).
An OT SOC is responsible for continuously monitoring and analyzing devices, networks and processes related to operating technologies, in order to detect and respond to any cyber threats, security events and potential network vulnerabilities.
Its importance lies in the ability to quickly detect cyber threats, provide a rapid and timely response, and ensure the operational continuity of critical infrastructures. Additionally, an OT SOC helps strengthen an organization's security posture and comply with security regulations and standards.
In industrial environments, which are increasingly connected and exposed to risks, a SOC OT becomes an essential component to mitigate risks and guarantee the availability, integrity and confidentiality of control systems, protecting critical assets and ensuring the operational continuity of these industrial environments.
What is advanced monitoring in a soc ot?
Advanced monitoring in an OT SOC refers to the ability to continuously and proactively monitor and analyze industrial control systems to detect potential security threats and anomalies.
On the one hand, the use of specific technologies and tools such as security information and event management (SIEM) systems, anomaly detection solutions (IDS) and network traffic monitoring systems provide complete visibility of the network. This facilitates the collection, analysis and correlation of data from ICS.
Specialized personnel are responsible for monitoring and analyzing the data generated by security technologies, providing the knowledge needed to interpret information, investigate incidents and take appropriate action to mitigate threats.
Finally, well-defined processes are what ensure that actions are taken consistently and efficiently, and that the correct steps are followed to address security incidents. In addition to incident management, they also cover configuring and managing security tools, classifying and prioritizing events, generating reports, and collaborating with other security teams to generate synergies and have a more robust security posture.
How does advanced monitoring work in a soc ot?
Advanced monitoring begins with the collection of relevant data from industrial control systems, which typically includes event logs, security logs, configuration change logs, network traffic and other data relevant to the safe operation of critical assets.
Once the data is collected, it is analyzed and correlated to identify patterns, trends and anomalous behavior. SIEM and anomaly detection tools play a key role in this process, enabling early detection of threats.
During data analysis, they look for signs of potential threats and malicious activity, such as intrusion attempts, anomalies in network traffic, unauthorized modifications to system configuration, and other suspicious activity that may indicate a security breach.
Upon detection of a threat or suspicious activity, real-time alerts and notifications are generated and sent to the SOC OT security team. At this point, qualified personnel are responsible for analyzing the alerts, classifying them according to their severity and taking appropriate action according to established procedures.
Once the threat is confirmed, the SOC OT security team initiates the response and mitigation process. This may involve isolating affected systems, applying security patches, restoring from backups or implementing specific countermeasures.
After an incident has been managed, a deep analysis is performed to understand how the security breach occurred and to take steps to prevent similar incidents in the future. This includes reviewing security procedures, updating policies and implementing improvements.
How to implement advanced monitoring in a soc ot for industrial cybersecurity?
Advanced monitoring in an OT SOC is a fundamental strategy to ensure cybersecurity in industrial environments. Its proper implementation is a key point to detect and mitigate cyber threats efficiently. To this end, it is necessary to take into account the following phases:
- Assess risks and requirements:
The initial step in implementing a SOC OT is to make a thorough assessment of the organization's specific risks and requirements. This involves assessing the assets and systems in the control network, identifying potential threats and scenarios that could affect the system, assessing the criticality of the assets, understanding compliance requirements, and establishing security objectives. All of this information is critical to lay the foundation for effective advanced monitoring.
- Design the monitoring architecture:
Designing a robust monitoring architecture is essential for a successful implementation. Tools and technologies should be selected to fit the specific needs and characteristics of the organization, such as network traffic monitoring sensors, intrusion detection systems (IDS/IPS), security information and event management (SIEM) systems, and other security analysis tools.
Aspects such as network segmentation, strategic placement of sensors, and scalability of the infrastructure must be considered in this phase.
- Define use cases:
Advanced monitoring is based on the configuration of rules and alerts to identify and report relevant security events. These rules must be tailored to the specific requirements of the organization and the characteristics of the industrial control systems.
In the context of configuring rules and alerts in industrial networks, use cases are used to refer to specific security scenarios that are configured in event management systems. These represent anomalous situations or behaviors that are considered to be indicators of possible security threats or incidents.
Use cases in an OT SOC are created to address specific security scenarios that are relevant to industrial environments. They may include detection of unusual activity in control systems, unauthorized access attempts to OT devices, malware or OT network intrusions, and potential network traffic anomalies, among others.
- Define processes and train personnel:
An essential part of implementing advanced monitoring is to establish clear workflows, which allow for efficient response to potential security incidents. This involves defining roles and responsibilities within the SOC OT team, establishing escalation procedures and protocols to be followed for documentation and incident management.
In a SOC OT, it is also essential to have a team trained in industrial cybersecurity, with knowledge of industrial control systems, common cyber threats and best practices for industrial network security. It is also important for the team to be familiar with defined procedures for incident management, response to different alerts and collaboration with other security teams in the organization.
- Continuous improvement:
Advanced monitoring of an OT SOC, should not be seen as a single and static process, but should be thought of as a process that requires continuous review and improvement to ensure that its operation is truly efficient. Regular reviews of the infrastructure and detection rules, analysis of past incidents and adaptation to new threats and trends in cybersecurity should be performed.
Advanced monitoring in an OT SOC plays a key role in the protection of industrial control systems. By collecting and analyzing relevant events, this monitoring enables early detection of threats, enabling the ability to respond quickly to incidents and ensuring proactive protection of critical assets. By implementing advanced monitoring in an OT SOC, organizations have the opportunity to strengthen their cybersecurity posture and protect their operations from constantly evolving cyber threats.