Why Building a Cyber Hygiene Environment Matters

August 30, 2023
Cyber Hygiene for Electric Utilities Entities

Bridging the Gap:

Integrating Human Expertise and Technology for OT Cybersecurity

In today’s digital age, the importance of cybersecurity cannot be overstated. With cyber threats becoming increasingly sophisticated and frequent, safeguarding critical infrastructure, especially in the realm of Industrial Control Systems and Operational Technology (ICS/OT), is paramount. However, as our latest webinar highlighted, building a robust cybersecurity environment is not as simple as making a single purchase. It’s a journey, a journey that begins with establishing a strong cyber hygiene environment. In this blog post, we’ll delve into what this means and why it’s so vital.


The Maturity Journey of ICS/OT Cybersecurity

Effective ICS/OT cybersecurity is not a destination; it’s a journey. It’s a path that evolves as threats evolve. To embark on this journey, you need to lay the right foundations. Skipping these fundamental steps and jumping straight into advanced security controls is akin to building a house without a solid base – it’s unstable.


Foundational Controls: The Cornerstone of Cybersecurity

Imagine trying to protect something without knowing what it is. That’s precisely what happens if you lack an asset inventory. Asset inventory, often considered the first CIS (Center for Internet Security Control) is the bedrock of cybersecurity. It includes cataloging all devices, even those deep within the Purdue Model, and extends to high-latency “air-gapped” devices.

Network diagrams are another key component. These visual representations are indispensable for understanding your environment. They should encompass all levels of the Purdue Model and even illustrate connections to isolated devices via “sneakernet” (manual transfer).

Data flow diagrams complete the trio of foundational efforts. They provide insights into how data moves within your ICS/OT environment, crucial for placing effective security controls. Like network diagrams, they should cover all levels of the Purdue Model, including air-gapped devices.

These foundational steps are prerequisites before diving into segmentation or other advanced security controls. After all, how can you secure something you haven’t documented?


Boots on the Ground: The Human Element

In established environments, accomplishing these foundational steps often requires “boots on the ground.” ICS/OT cybersecurity isn’t a passive endeavor. To build effective security programs, you must immerse yourself in the environment. Walk through them, understand the processes, and get acquainted with the end products. Your team must physically engage with devices to account for them.


No Tool Can Replace Human Insight

While technology aids in cybersecurity, no tool can replace human insight. Relying solely on automation can lead to blind spots. You may one day be surprised by an incident in an area of the network you didn’t even know existed. To eliminate these “unknown unknowns,” physical engagement with devices is indispensable. Otherwise, expensive tools may prove ineffective.


The Leadership Imperative

Effective ICS/OT cybersecurity isn’t about purchasing a tool that promises to do it all. It’s about building from a solid foundation. Thankfully, senior leaders are becoming increasingly aware of the risks and the need to mitigate them. This awareness is the first step towards a robust ICS/OT cybersecurity program.


Critical Dependencies on Connected Cyber-Systems

Additionally, it’s crucial to consider the critical dependencies on connected cyber systems. Understanding which cyber systems underpin your critical operations and how they are connected is vital. This knowledge helps enhance resiliency in your environment, especially in a world where cyber threats are escalating in frequency and complexity.

To gain a more comprehensive understanding of these concepts, we recently co-hosted a webinar panel discussion. See the live recording here. 

The discussion highlights the dynamic interplay between human expertise and advanced technology in strengthening cybersecurity for critical infrastructure. It emphasizes the importance of in-person inspections and the hidden costs of over-reliance on technology.


In conclusion, building a cyber hygiene environment isn’t an option; it’s a necessity. It’s the foundation upon which effective ICS/OT cybersecurity is built. By combining human insight with technology, we can create a resilient environment that safeguards our critical infrastructure from ever-evolving cyber threats.


Want to learn more about how you can build a culture of compliance?  Please reach out to one of our OT/ICS Specialists at sales@network-perception.com.