Podcast: Episode #44 - Thomas VanNorman: ICS Security Takes a Village - Building an OT Security Community

December 7, 2023

Thomas VanNorman: ICS Security Takes a Village - Building an OT Security Community

About Thomas VanNorman: Thomas VanNorman, a seasoned professional with almost three decades of experience in OT, is currently leading the CyPhy Product group at GRIMM. His primary focus involves securing Industrial Control Systems and networking within this domain. Additionally, Tom is a co-founder of the ICS Village, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to Control System security and awareness, where he has volunteered for almost a decade. Tom retired from the Air National Guard after serving in Cyber Warfare Operations, capping off a diverse career that included working on airplane control systems for 12 years.

In this episode, Aaron and Thomas VanNorman discuss:

  • Starting up The ICS Village
  • Navigating the world of industrial control systems
  • Addressing the unique challenges of OT security
  • The chicken and egg dilemma in industrial cybersecurity
  • Insights from recent SEC actions and the role of CISOs in risk acceptance

Key Takeaways:

  • The ICS Village, founded eight years ago, focuses on educating and raising awareness about industrial control systems (ICS) and their security, using conferences, events, and roadshows to provide hands-on experiences, non-sales discussions, and tabletop exercises, with a mission to bridge knowledge gaps, address terminology variations, and emphasize the importance of both old and new threats in the ICS space.
  • Addressing cybersecurity challenges in the OT space, particularly with aging technology, requires a unique approach due to potential impacts on production and safety, leading to the launch of a four-year apprenticeship program initially targeting veterans to bridge the skills gap.
  • Navigating the challenges of cybersecurity in industrial settings requires a blend of technical expertise, an understanding of operational processes, and effective risk communication, as demonstrated by the importance of bridging the gap between IT and OT and addressing vulnerabilities in a context-specific manner.
  • In the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity, the role of CISOs is becoming increasingly crucial, with recent legal actions targeting them personally; however, it's essential to recognize that CISOs often lack the executive power to make decisions, highlighting the need for a shift in organizational dynamics and a deeper understanding of the risks being accepted.

"Our role as technologists is to explain the facts: Why does this matter? What happens if you fix it? What happens if you don't fix it? It may cost millions of dollars to fix it. It might be for an air handler that operates the warehouse, which doesn't matter much. Or it could be an air handler for that warehouse that does matter because it has to be climate-controlled. Things go south quickly. It's the same piece of hardware, the same piece of technology, but with different applications." — Thomas VanNorman

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