Key Criteria for Evaluating Operational Technology (OT) Security Solutionsv1.0

An Evaluation Guide for Technology Decision-Makers

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. OT Security Primer
  3. Report Methodology
  4. Decision Criteria Analysis
  5. Evaluation Metrics
  6. Key Criteria: Impact Analysis
  7. Analyst’s Take
  8. About Chris Ray

1. Summary

The unification of operational technology (OT) and informational technology (IT) brings a range of benefits to sophisticated technology systems in industries such as manufacturing, logistics, energy and utilities, automotive, healthcare, and agriculture. However, this convergence also poses a challenge because it increases the complexity of the network with a large number of connected devices, sensors, measuring stations, robots, and plants that use mostly proprietary programs and protocols.

Such an environment is more difficult to secure and is vulnerable to cyberattacks, which can lead to the theft or manipulation of sensitive data. OT devices are seldom powered off, which amplifies risk because any disruption in software, data, or communication channels can cause production shutdowns, leading to significant economic losses as well as damage to company reputation. Attacks on critical infrastructure like energy and water supply systems pose a threat to public safety. Fortunately, OT security solutions have emerged to provide protection for these infrastructures.

Before diving into the focus of this report, let’s take a minute to review the differences between OT equipment and internet of things (IoT) equipment. Both involve connected physical devices that are embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity, enabling them to exchange data. Today’s homes may include many IoT devices, such as door bells, refrigerators, coffee machines, and other home appliances. In contrast, OT devices include industrial control systems, precision sensors, environmental controls responsible for human safety, and so forth. In a nutshell, IoT can be thought of as the consumer side, while OT is the industrial or more robust counterpart, sometimes referred to as the industrial internet of things (IIoT). This report will focus on technologies and services that secure OT equipment.

Although IT and OT security have been around for nearly the same amount of time, IT security benefited from receiving the lion’s share of attention from organizations and vendors up until the early 2000s. For this reason, many IT security solutions were used as a basis for retrofitting into the OT arena. This approach was met with limited success, as the elements that define the OT environment make it differ significantly from the IT arena.

OT security solutions should be selected and implemented as an additional and preferably transparent layer meant to mitigate the potential risks posed by cyberattacks. There are three main attack vectors to consider: visibility of OT devices and assets on the internet, remote access for remote maintenance, and the privileges of users and devices. Effective security solutions need to address each of these areas in order to ensure adequate protection.

The GigaOm Key Criteria and Radar reports provide an overview of the OT security market, identify capabilities (table stakes, key criteria, and emerging technologies) and non-functional requirements (evaluation metrics) for selecting an OT security solution, and detail vendors and products that excel. These reports give prospective buyers an overview of the top vendors in this sector and help decision-makers evaluate solutions and decide where to invest.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding, consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

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