What is OT Asset Management?

Learn what OT asset management is and how a strong asset inventory protects your OT/ICS systems. Discover key components and security advantages.

Table of Contents

Text about OT asset management. OT is an acronym for operational technology. OT asset management is the practice of identifying, tracking, maintaining, and securing all hardware and software assets within an OT environment.

What is OT Asset Management?

OT asset management is the crucial practice of identifying, tracking, maintaining, and securing all hardware and software assets within Operational Technology (OT) environments. These environments, which control physical systems in industries like manufacturing and critical infrastructure, are packed with specialized equipment and software.

What is an OT Asset Inventory?

The cornerstone of OT asset management is the OT asset inventory. Imagine this as a master list of everything in your OT environment – hardware, software, network details, and more. A robust inventory helps you:

  • Understand Your OT Landscape: See what assets you have and how they’re connected.
  • Uncover Vulnerabilities: Identify assets that need patching or security updates.
  • Secure Your Systems: Make informed decisions about protecting your most critical assets.

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• Achieve a complete OT asset inventory
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• Track and measure progress on risk exposure and reduction

What Should The Inventory Include?

While the basics always include hardware, operating systems, and firmware versions, a strong cybersecurity program demands even deeper visibility. An ideal OT asset inventory should have:

  • Hardware: List of all devices (on and off network), their makes/models, IP/serial addresses, and key specifications (memory, storage, etc.).
  • Software: Comprehensive list of operating systems, firmware, and applications.
  • Users/Accounts: All user accounts on each asset, including dormant, shared, local, and admin accounts.
  • Vulnerabilities: Known vulnerabilities, their CVSS scores, attack vectors, and potential fixes.
  • Configuration: Device settings related to ports, services, passwords, etc. to ensure secure configuration.
  • Network: Network connections, potential paths, and protections in place.
  • Security Status: Antivirus/protection software and update status.
  • Backup Status: Information on current backups.
  • Physical Context: Location (rack, cabinet, building) for quick asset identification.
  • Criticality: Assessment of how essential each asset is to operations.

The OT Inventory Challenge

Effective cybersecurity, in both IT and OT, starts with knowing what you have. IT teams have powerful tools that automatically gather detailed asset information. Unfortunately, similar tools are often missing in OT environments. This forces organizations to rely on less effective methods that can leave critical assets invisible.

Understanding your OT assets is the foundation for crucial security tasks like patching, secure configuration, and user access controls. Without a robust inventory, these become much harder, leaving systems vulnerable.

The ‘If You Give a Mouse a Cookie’ Problem of OT Cybersecurity

Security programs have a way of snowballing, like in the children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. You start with a simple goal—understanding your assets. But then…

  • Inventory leads to vulnerabilities: Once you know what you have, you need to assess the risks those assets face.
  • Vulnerabilities lead to patching… or else: Patching is ideal, but OT environments often can’t patch immediately. Instead, you’ll need compensating controls.
  • Compensating controls need backups: Any control is only as good as your ability to recover if it fails. So now your asset inventory has to incorporate backup and restoration plans.
  • The cycle continues: New vulnerabilities and upgrades to consider, each step relying on the data you gathered in the previous one.

The point is that each step in your cybersecurity journey relies on the information you have from the ones before it. That’s why the often-quoted phrase “you can’t secure what you can’t see,” is only the beginning, as is your asset inventory.

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Key Benefits

As Yogi Berra put it, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” A robust OT asset inventory isn’t a simple checklist – it’s the roadmap for your entire cybersecurity journey. Here’s why:

  • Solid Foundation for Long-Term Security: A comprehensive and continually updated inventory forms the backbone of your security strategy. It ensures tools, processes, and future planning align with your specific needs and environment.
  • Improved Accuracy and Proactive Threat Detection: Automated discovery and monitoring provide the most accurate picture of your OT environment, making it easier to identify and respond to potential vulnerabilities before they’re exploited. This proactive approach significantly reduces security risks.
  • Enhanced Efficiency and Cybersecurity Maturity: Centralized asset data on a single platform streamlines workflows for key security activities – identification, protection, detection, response, and recovery. This saves time, reduces errors, and accelerates your journey towards a mature and effective cybersecurity posture.
  • Informed Decision-Making: A robust inventory equips you with the data needed to make confident decisions. You can effectively prioritize security actions, manage risks thoughtfully, and optimize your investments in cybersecurity tools and resources.

How to Choose the Right Asset Management Solution

To avoid getting stuck in the “cookie cycle,” choose a solution that delivers comprehensive data from the outset.

Here are some key considerations when selecting the right OT asset inventory solution:

  • Plan for the Future: Don’t just address immediate needs. Think about your future cybersecurity aspirations and choose a solution that can grow and adapt alongside your program. It’s like planning a long trip – you pack for all the potential situations you might encounter.

  • Data Depth: A basic asset list won’t cut it. Look for a solution that gathers detailed information about your OT assets, providing a comprehensive view of your environment. 

  • Integration & Flexibility: Ensure the solution integrates seamlessly with your existing security tools and offers flexibility to accommodate future additions. This way, your “security toolkit” remains versatile and adaptable.

  • Scalability: Consider your environment’s size and complexity, and choose a solution that can scale effectively as your OT footprint expands.

By focusing on these elements, you’ll be well-positioned to select an OT asset inventory solution that empowers your cybersecurity program for the long haul. It’s an investment that keeps on giving, providing the foundation for a robust and future-proof security posture.

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