Podcast: Episode #41 - Michael Holcomb: The Journey from IT to OT and Strengthening IT-OT Partnership

November 16, 2023

About Michael Holcomb: Michael Holcomb is the Fellow of Cybersecurity and the ICS/OT Cybersecurity Global Lead for Fluor, a prominent engineering, procurement, and construction company. In his current role, he focuses on securing vast ICS/OT environments, ranging from power plants and commuter rail to manufacturing facilities and refineries. Currently pursuing his Master’s thesis on Programmable Logic Controllers' attack surface with the SANS Technology Institute, he holds multiple cyber security and ICS/OT certifications like CISSP, GRID, GICSP, GCIP, GPEN, GCIH, and ISA 62443. Beyond his professional endeavors, he founded the UpstateSC ISSA Chapter and BSides Greenville conference, and authored and taught cyber security courses at Greenville Technical College, earning him the CyberSC’s MG Lester D. Eisner Award for Cyber Excellence in Leadership for South Carolina in 2023.

In this episode, Aaron and Michael Holcomb discuss:

  • Closing the IT-OT skills gap in cybersecurity
  • Navigating the path to cybersecurity expertise
  • The intersection of OT cybersecurity and networking
  • The evolving landscape of OT cybersecurity

Key Takeaways:

  • Bridging the gap between IT professionals learning to think like engineers and OT specialists embracing cybersecurity not only enhances collaboration but also strengthens our ability to secure critical infrastructures, a journey that demands time, dedication, and a shared commitment to a safer digital future.
  • Embracing a multidisciplinary approach and fostering collaboration between IT and OT professionals, along with hands-on experience and continuous learning, is the key to breaking into the rapidly evolving field of cybersecurity, transforming passion and knowledge into practical expertise.
  • Mastering networking fundamentals is the key to bridging the gap between IT and engineering, enabling the design of resilient systems that prevent costly operational disruptions, and emphasizing the need for continuous learning and collaboration in this dynamic field.
  • The integration of IT technologies into OT without adequate expertise has led to vulnerabilities; expecting OT professionals to handle cybersecurity is akin to asking a plumber to do electrical work. While progress is being made, the industry must prepare for a potentially catastrophic event to truly acknowledge the importance of cybersecurity in OT.

"One of the things that's sad to me about the OT cybersecurity industry, and this even goes for folks that are new to the industry and even some of the old players that have been out there for 20, 30, maybe 40 years plus, is that there's still, in some respects, not a lot of concern around what it's going to take for people to take cybersecurity and OT seriously. And so there's going to be that event one day, where people are going to die, right? That is going to finally force people to take cybersecurity and OT seriously." — Michael Holcomb

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