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IT environments have always been considered the forefront when it comes to cybersecurity, and OT environments have been the forefront when it comes to physical security.

As more and more cyber threats are taking place, and with an increasing number recently focused on OT environments, everyone seems to be concerned with how to upscale and secure their OT estates in terms of cybersecurity. However, rather than saying that OT dominions are the only ones that need to be upgraded, perhaps it is a good time to also review their IT holdings and look towards OT in terms of upscaling their physical environment and protecting the devices in scope.

OT environments have always focused on protecting physical entities such as walls, gates, doors, keys, and network hardware. To some extent, many have not even been protected with basic effective username and password authentication security. Although this has historically been a good enough practice, with newer communication methodologies being introduced to make remote management and vendor access easier, this has now opened up a whole bunch of new cyber threats. The OT world is now looking towards the IT world for help.

A World of IT and OT

IT environments have taken a different route. Rather than focusing on 100% protection of physical appliances, they have chosen to reduce the physical focal point in favor of keeping things simple and flexible. The new spotlight is to secure the non-tangible elements of permissions to data and communication access. Historically, this has been a feasible methodology, but with the recent breaches of well-known hardware manufacturers providing backdoor access to data, this has now opened up a new threat angle. The IT professionals should look towards the OT world for help.

Imagine a world where we could have the best of both OT and IT security merged into one methodology where we could have all environments protected 100% both physically and virtually. Imagine how hard it would be for any malicious organization to have to surpass both the physical environment in terms of navigating through truly segmented networks, layer 3 firewalls, reduced port access, and limited physical access to certain devices, coupled with multi layered walls, gates, doors, and other access points, only to find that all of the devices they finally get to are also truly secured with a very high level cybersecurity protection such as advanced encryption, intruder detection capabilities, file integrity monitoring, log capturing and alerting capabilities, vulnerability management, and consistent patch management

Rather than trying to compare which security methodology is better and how we need to bring one up to the other, why not combine the best of both worlds into one global security policy that could work for both the IT and OT estates? Physical security is as important as cybersecurity, and cybersecurity is as important as physical security; the two should not been seen as mutually exclusive but rather as complementary to one another. The only challenge we are seeing in the marketplace today to make this dream a reality is for both environments to find a common language that is understood by all.