No items found.

Taking the Tedious out of Compliance & Governance with Automated, Centralized OT Asset Data

August 2, 2023

Industrial organizations are gaining a deeper understanding of the importance of robust OT security measures and stringent adherence to compliance regulations, such as the North American Electric Reliability Corporation Critical Infrastructure Protection (NERC-CIP) standards. However, many organizations are still held back by manual processes, involving laborious site walk-downs and spreadsheet management. This not only places an additional burden on teams who are also responsible for maintaining overall operations, but it can also lead to a weaker security posture and regulatory issues.

Complete and accurate OT asset data forms the bedrock of any security and compliance program. Even though effective automation techniques for data collection are readily available, some organizations persist with manual methods. This manual approach is not only labor-intensive and susceptible to human error, but it also provides just a fleeting snapshot that can rapidly become outdated.

Now, imagine a medium-sized natural gas power utility facility in the Midwest, powering approximately 50,000 households and businesses. This facility hosts a complex array of operational technology (OT) systems, with key components like control systems, transformers, circuit breakers, and security technologies playing vital roles in its operation and overall grid reliability. NERC-CIP mandates a comprehensive inventory of all OT assets, and this site is currently adhering to this requirement manually, necessitating on-site walkthroughs to evaluate all the processes controlled and monitored by OT.

Consider how tedious, time-consuming, and uninspiring this task can be. First, the staff would need to gather tools such as clipboards or tablets, apply asset tags if not already present, and use a facility map marking the locations of all known OT components. They would also need a list of targets: every device linked to the control system network, including controllers, servers, workstations, network equipment, and auxiliary devices.

Their journey begins in the control room, the heart of the OT systems, where servers, workstations, and network equipment are identified and catalogued. Here, one would typically find Human-Machine Interface (HMI) consoles and other crucial devices interfacing with the plant's control systems. The team then moves to the power generation area to document details of turbine controllers, fuel control systems, and safety system controllers. Then they may need to go check out the transformer controllers, circuit breaker control systems, and other electrical equipment control systems. Along the way, they must also pinpoint all communication equipment, like routers, switches, and firewalls, linking the facility's OT devices to each other and potentially to external networks.

Additionally, other sections of the facility would house more OT to inspect: HVAC control systems in various buildings, security systems such as access control and CCTV systems, and other devices part of the OT network. Every step of the way, they must meticulously record vital information like device type, manufacturer, model, serial number, physical location, network addresses, and software versions. Photographing or tagging each asset could also prove beneficial.

Consider then multiplying this process for regular interval assessments, and further multiplying that at an enterprise level by the number of sites, including larger ones. That results in a considerable amount of complexity, time, and cost across the company.

It's important to remember that the manual asset inventory process can be both time-consuming and prone to errors, especially in a facility of this size, as it offers just a snapshot in time. Automated asset discovery and management tools can substantially simplify this process, providing a continuously updated asset inventory and aiding in maintaining compliance with standards like NERC-CIP.

Relying solely on manual processes for maintaining compliance is not a sustainable long-term strategy. Automation is the more sensible and reliable solution. It not only minimizes the risk of human error but also significantly reduces time and labor costs, ensuring continuous compliance. Manual processes may struggle to identify configuration changes promptly, whereas automated solutions can effortlessly pinpoint differences over time. With automation, necessary information is always at your fingertips, and with Industrial Defender, you have the advantage of historical context.

The adoption of automation can significantly ease the burden of demonstrating compliance. Industrial Defender automates the collection of all pertinent data and the generation of audit-ready reports. This includes ready-to-use options for various frameworks, such as NERC CIP, NIST, IEC 62443, and more. Moreover, organizations can automate compliance checks against corporate or internal policies, much like they would assess conformance to regulations and other standards.

Embracing an automated approach to OT security and compliance data collection is a wise, modern strategy, ensuring comprehensive and accurate compliance. This method not only conserves time and decreases labor costs but also reduces the risk of human error. Tools like Industrial Defender serve as key enablers in this transition, streamlining processes, boosting efficiency, and ensuring sustained regulatory compliance.

Learn more about automating your security and compliance here: