OT Endpoint Protection: The Challenges

OT Endpoint Protection is a necessity to protect the world’s infrastructure, but in many cases, it is not deployed due to several key challenges.

Several unique characteristics of these networks and the processes that they control make running traditional endpoint protection solutions very difficult if not impossible.

  • The vast majority of devices in an OT network do not run Windows/Unix/Linux but instead operate on ICS equipment OEM protocols with no ability to deploy traditional IT agents.
  • Even those devices that are Windows-based are designed to integrate into highly customized control system networks making third-party management difficult for those without deep experience in those systems.
  • Processes that these systems control are much more sensitive than traditional IT processes – for instance, you cannot just reboot your turbine controls when you run an update without risking shutting down an operation for a long period of time
  • Many of these systems operate in remote environments that require a low cost, easy to use solution.
  • Updating and patching require accessing hundreds of non-IT applications and OT vendor websites to determine whether an update exists and what the scope of that update is (e.g., Schweitzer relays or Hirschmann switches). Then once this is determined, the process is usually a slow manual effort of visiting each device with a memory device to upload the update.
  • The solutions that are offered today are mostly from the OEMs themselves, leading to a patchwork for solutions across a corporate OT network with each OEM managing their own equipment but a lack of visibility across the entire network.

As a result of these challenges, endpoint protection management is hugely time-consuming or is just simply not done.

 

OT Endpoint Protection: The Solution

Because of these challenges, we have leveraged our 25+ years of ICS engineering experience as RKNeal Engineering to build Verve Industrial Protection (VIP) – a division focused specifically on OT cybersecurity.

Our Verve Security Center (VSC) software and our Verve Industrial Protection Services (VIP Services) deliver a complete OT endpoint protection platform that addresses the complexities discussed above.

VSC is the only solution of its kind that is built ground-up with Industrial Control Systems in mind. As a team we have operated plants, deployed Emerson, ABB, Rockwell, and many other control systems. And we have seen the challenges these systems present. Therefore, VSC embeds this knowledge to create a solution that is safe, effective, and efficient for OT endpoint protection.

 

The Verve Security Center includes 6 critical elements:

  1. A best-in-class agent-based solution selected because of its flexibility for customization, its lightweight footprint, its scalability, and ease of use. Verve leverages the BigFix agent and apply VIP-customization of the way the agent operates so that it is configured to work across all OEM vendor equipment without disruption (proven by over a decade of operating in plant environments) to provide a single solution across vendors.
  2. A proprietary Verve Industrial Protection solution – our Agentless Device Information – that extends BigFix into the unmanaged assets of relays, RTUs, IEDs, PLCs, etc. to gather configurations and other asset information from these proprietary protocols so that a user can see and managed 100% of their assets.
  3. A low-cost, scalable architecture leveraging proprietary software to reach remote locations efficiently – and one that enables auto-identification of new devices as they are added to the network
  4. A user-interface that brings together all of this information into a searchable and automated asset management system to provide full visibility and actionability.
  5. VIP Services “Closed-loop update service” that on a monthly basis accesses and reviews patches & updates from hundreds of OT apps and vendors to identify those that are security-related, and then integrates those into VSC for automated deployment on our client’s networks. This patch management is done across vendors so that users do not need to manage multiple vendor’s systems.
  6. Optional OT-specific application whitelisting using the best-in-class whitelisting product from Bit9/Carbon Black. We have applied our years of experience across every major OEM system to develop the necessary customization for each OEM to ensure our clients can truly lock-down the whitelisting.

Verve Security Center: The Benefits

The result is a solution that not only delivers true end-point protection for ALL of your OT assets, but does so safely, effectively, and efficiently. Key benefits include

  1. Lower total cost of ownership. Because VIP operates across vendors and integrates the various elements of endpoint protection into a single offering, the cost to deploy, and most importantly the labor costs to manage the protection are significantly reduced.
  2. “OT Safe”. We have embedded over 20 years of industrial controls engineering into Verve Security Center. Before we focused on security, we focused on safety and reliability. We understand that in many cases, companies in the pursuit of security have actually made their systems less reliable. VSC starts from the premise “first do no harm” and we embed that mindset into all elements. We have had VSC operating on industrial environments for over 8 years with no disruption of operation for our customers.
  3. Greater network visibility. In many cases before deploying VSC, our clients we using Excel spreadsheets or Access databases manually updated to keep track of their OT assets. VSC enables automated asset identification, inventory, and management – across ALL OT assets, not just the Windows boxes.
  4. Reduced complexity of managing updates. With our VIP Closed-loop update service, we take the headache out of patch management by bringing our scale to update identification and review combined with the automation of Verve in scheduling and deploying patches when and where you want.
  5. More secure networks. Because of this complete view of configuration changes, patch status along with the ability to deploy updates regularly – and in many cases combined with our optional OT application whitelisting – our client’s networks are fundamentally more secure than they would be otherwise.

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