Operational technology (OT), industrial control systems (ICS), and supervisory control and data acquisition systems (SCADA) represent systems used to monitor and manage manufacturing equipment or industrial process assets and play a vital role in ensuring the efficient and safe operation of industrial processes and critical infrastructure. These systems have a long lifespan and were originally designed to communicate via isolated networks. However, as modern manufacturing and production environments have become increasingly connected, the physical isolation of these systems has become challenging at best.

Ensuring the cybersecurity of OT, ICS, and SCADA systems is paramount due to their critical roles in industrial and infrastructure operations. These systems control everything from manufacturing processes to power grids, water supply, and transportation networks. A cyberattack can lead to severe disruptions, production downtime, environmental hazards, and even threats to public safety. 

What is OT/ICS/SCADA Testing?

OT/ICS/SCADA cybersecurity testing is a specialised assessment and evaluation process designed to identify and address vulnerabilities, threats, and weaknesses in OT, ICS and SCADA systems. The primary objectives of OT/ICS/SCADA testing is similar to many other cyber security techniques and includes vulnerability assessments to identify potential weaknesses, penetration testing to simulate cyber attacks, risk assessments and more.

However, industrial control system testing needs to take into account additional factors. Specialised tools are often required for testing embedded control devices, devices can be incompatible with control network protocols, and testing can be more complicated within the live production environment. To account for these complexities and ensure systems aren't harmed in the process, OT/ICS/SCADA testing employs a more tailored approach. The result is a list of vulnerabilities categorised by risk levels to help prioritise remediation steps. 

When Do You Need TO/ICS/SCADA Testing?

Industrial control systems are at risk from constantly changing threats if they are not properly secured, which makes regular testing paramount; there are specific scenarios when OT/ICS/SCADA testing is advised:

  • System Deployment- before deploying new OT/ICS/SCADA systems, testing should be conducted to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities from the outset.
  • Regular Assessments - regular cybersecurity testing should be performed at defined intervals to proactively detect and address emerging threats.
  • After Major System Changes - testing should be conducted whenever significant changes are made, including software updates or network reconfigurations.
  • Regulatory Compliance - testing is fundamental to ensure compliance with industry-specific regulations and standards. 
  • Third-Party Connections- it's essential to verify that connections with external partners, suppliers, or vendors do not introduce security risks.
  •  After Security Incidents - in the aftermath of a cybersecurity incident, testing helps identify how the breach occurred and strengthens defences to prevent future attacks.
  • System Retirement - testing should be conducted to ensure that sensitive information is properly wiped and that the systems are securely decommissioned.

Ultimately, the need for OT/ICS/SCADA cybersecurity testing is ongoing, with an emphasis on proactive measures to secure critical infrastructure and industrial processes against evolving cyber threats.

The Business Benefits of OT/ICS/SCADA Testing

The benefits of OT/ICS/SCADA testing include:

  • Protection of Critical Assets - safeguarding vital infrastructure from cyber threats.
  • Reduced Downtime - proactively addressing vulnerabilities to minimise operational disruptions.
  • Incident Response Plan Verification - ensuring incident response plans are efficient and robust.
  • Network Security Gap Identification - detecting access points for potential attackers.
  • Compensating Controls - gaining a deeper understanding of ICS/TO-specific security measures.
  • Improved Compliance - ensuring adherence to security best practices in industrial environments and supporting compliance with industry-specific security standards. 
  • Increased Security Awareness - raising awareness of security concerns in ICS/OT technologies.
  • Third-Party System Security - validating the security of external ICS systems and software
  • Greater Operational Resilience - assuring the highest level of operational resilience against cyber risks.

OT/ICS/SCADA testing offers a wide range of business benefits, including improved security, compliance and operational continuity. Ultimately, by investing in testing critical infrastructure, you're not only protecting your systems but also strengthening the overall resilience and reputation of your organisation.


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