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Technology

OT/IT Silos Hurting Efforts To Digitize The Factory Floor: Report

David Ndichu
OT/IT Silos Hurting Efforts To Digitize The Factory Floor: ReportCourtesy of Shutterstock

Lack of collaboration between Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) teams represents a formidable cybersecurity barrier for organizations that want to leverage IT/OT convergence to grow their business. A study commissioned by cybersecurity firm Fortinet found out that industrial firms are more exposed to cyber threats than ever before due to increased digitalization.

Industrial firms are committed to further digitalizing their factory floor to find new efficiencies and improve their ability to gather data that can provide business insight into production processes. Sixty-six percent of respondents to the study said their factories run through IP-connected networks and use real-time data to inform business decisions. However, these IP-connected networks bring up new cybersecurity risks with 73 percent of respondents in agreement that the attack surface has expanded. Meanwhile, only half of the respondents agreed that their factory machinery is well prepared to fight off cybersecurity threats, leaving the other half unprepared and 55 percent of respondents either have no plans to implement or plan to implement cybersecurity technologies in the next 12 months.

Another key finding shows Industrial Control Systems (ICS) are at risk due to lack of collaboration between the IT and OT environments with 51 percent of respondents claiming they operate in silos, meaning the OT team manages critical industrial equipment and any OT cybersecurity whereas the IT team is responsible for the management of IT cybersecurity. A quarter to over a third of respondents did not know who had primary responsibility for cybersecurity solutions such as process, control and automation systems, and even business planning and logistics. However, 91 percent stated that the security of factory machinery should be a shared IT and OT responsibility, as well as having clear and regular communication on the IT/OT convergence vision (58 percent) in order to ensure a successful IT/OT convergence.

Organizations have much to gain from convergence and close collaboration between OT and IT teams, with the biggest being access to real-time data insights from manufacturing operations (66percent) then being able to monetize and create new business opportunities via increased insight into production data (59percent). Numerous efficiency gains are to be obtained as well, with 43percent of respondents citing reduced duplication of processes and workflows between plants, as well as enhanced visibility to mitigate cybersecurity threats.

Joe Sarno, VP International Emerging & Operational Technology & Critical Infrastructure EMEA at Fortinet said, “Industrial firms need to change at the operational level in order to bridge the divide between IT and OT environments and build trust between these teams, to ensure a successful convergence. As the attack surface expands, IT and OT teams must collaborate to improve visibility and defend against cyber threats.”

Credit: Shutterstock

David Ndichu, a Kenyan native, is the current Technology Editor at Forbes Middle East. He has more than seven years’ experience in technology writing and reporting in the region. Ndichu is passionate about emerging technologies and their potential for disrupting existing business models. Away from his computer, Ndichu enjoys a good run, with a few marathons and half marathons under his belt.

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