The quest for visibility is a tale as old as time, both in the information technology (IT) and industrial control system (ICS) / operational technology (OT) spaces.
There are two sides to the visibility equation in OT environments:
- First is the way that operational and security teams interact with and visualize data from the environment.
- Second is the quality, reliability, and integrity of the data these management platforms use.
Many current solutions and technologies focus on visualizing and analyzing network data, but these are only as effective as the data that comes into them. Remote portions of the environment that are too difficult to deploy large sensors into often leave gaps in what operators and analysts can see.
Incomplete visibility — or complete invisibility — into remote sites makes it hard for industrial operators and analysts to secure those sites or ensure that they’re operating appropriately. This is where SynSaber’s integration-first approach comes in handy.
The Art of Visibility in OT Environments
While many ICS and OT environments across industries are facing the task of meeting regulatory and compliance requirements (think NERC CIP, NIST, etc.), this is a relatively recent development. Some industries are still working on solidifying these requirements, but the result is the same: security and operations teams must now figure out how to monitor and validate multiple requirements.
Historically, OT environments were built with availability and maintaining continuous operations in mind rather than security and detailed monitoring. Computing power on these machines is minimal, and they typically don’t support external connections or communications outside their network.
For remote OT sites like stations spread out across hundreds of miles of pipelines, or other locations with minimal equipment and resources, it’s difficult to deploy and integrate large-footprint sensors or monitoring equipment with intense computing and energy demands.
This results in a network architecture that might show hundreds of remote sites like these, but few options for operators and analysts to ensure that everything is running appropriately. They end up relying on the data that’s (hopefully) flowing up into devices at the operations management layer.
This is where having flexible, integration-first monitoring solutions like SynSaber’s software-based sensors (Sabers) fill this gap.
Enriching Existing Workflows & Bringing Technology Together
Sabers offer flexible deployment into remote sites or other areas of your environment with a low footprint and low- to no-hardware solution. The sensors can be launched on industrial devices with minimal computing requirements, a small standalone piece of hardware, or in a virtualized machine. This minimizes the Saber’s impact on network resources while maximizing visibility.
Sabers can process network data directly at the edge, so teams can quickly access relevant information without adding latency to operations.
The sensors are designed to be vendor agnostic. No matter what industrial devices exist in your environment, the data gathered by the sensors can be sent anywhere in your existing workflows. Data can be gathered from everywhere and sent to anywhere, whether that’s a SIEM, data lake, or existing security monitoring tool.
Utilizing integration-focused sensors is meant to unite and enrich the technologies and processes your team already has in place rather than adding another pane of glass to the network monitoring process. Flexible sensors provide a more complete look at an OT network’s architecture and environment to inform and empower risk analysts, security analysts, and operational teams that everything is operating and running as intended.
There’s no single way to address the need for complete visibility in OT environments. Each environment is built to meet unique and specific needs, and so are its resulting cybersecurity and operational solutions. Getting closer to achieving complete visibility means bringing together the capabilities of different vendors and technologies to address the nuances of each ICS environment.
Additional Tools and Resources
If you’re interested in learning more about SynSaber, reach out to schedule a demo or check out our free OT PCAP Analyzer tool to see how utilizing packet captures can improve your visibility journey.
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