IT and OT Automation – The Art of the Possible

4 Minute Read

Dive into the current state of IT/OT convergence, and how security automation drives operational success.

Over the past decade, the critical infrastructure sectors have witnessed several changes in areas such as supply chain management, energy management, and remote monitoring. The convergence of operational technology (OT) systems with information technology (IT) systems have created many opportunities as well as challenges for security teams.

What is IT/OT Convergence?

The IT/OT convergence is the integration of IT systems and OT systems. This convergence brings physical equipment and devices into a digital environment, which leads to a unified approach to systems monitoring.

With the convergence of IT and OT systems, the number of assets for OT security teams to manage has skyrocketed. Asset and vulnerability management plays a critical role in the NIST Cybersecurity Framework but is also time-consuming and labor-intensive for analysts. As IT and OT continue to converge, challenges like analyst burnout, expanding attack surfaces and cyber attacks will only worsen.

That’s why OT security leaders have begun to turn to automated security solutions to overcome their biggest obstacles. Critical infrastructure is only just beginning to utilize security automation – the possibilities are endless for IT and OT automation.

But first, let’s look at the current IT and OT security environments.

The Current State of IT/OT: A Tale of Two Systems

OT represents a vast array of systems used in industrial environments to monitor and control physical processes such as manufacturing lines, energy plants or power grids. On the other hand, IT focuses on managing data flows between people and computers – everything from laptops and smartphones to cloud servers and databases.

These two disciplines have evolved independently over time, resulting in disparate technologies that don’t always talk to each other efficiently. With the digitization of sectors like manufacturing, more connected devices are being used than ever before.

The explosion of the Internet of Things (IoT) has led to even more Big Data that’s stuck in the crosshairs of IT and OT. It’s estimated that there will be over 75 billion IoT devices by 2025, many within OT ecosystems. And 72% of industrial leaders expect IoT to have the most profound future impact on their organization.

Some may call it a buzzword, but the transition to Industry 4.0 further fuels the IT/OT convergence – and its pain points. The rise of IoT assets and the transition to cloud environments have opened up organizations to more threats. More threats mean higher volumes of manual work for OT security teams.

Turning to Automation for Operational Success

The two worlds of IT and OT have traditionally been siloed, with each group focused on its workloads, metrics and processes. Nowadays, it’s clear that the only way to improve security risk posture is by aligning IT and OT systems. The key to unlocking this potential is automation – using automation to make manual processes more efficient and effective.

Gain Visibility, Improve Metrics

When it comes to security, visibility is key. Without it, you cannot know what’s happening in your network or how effective your security controls are. Manual processes create blind spots and make it impossible to provide real-time monitoring and detection capabilities for cyber threats.

Automation helps fill these gaps by enabling you to monitor your entire infrastructure from one platform so you can get a holistic view of all devices across the enterprise. This enables you to detect problems quickly before they cause damage by sending alerts based on predefined rules or thresholds when any event occurs.

Reduce Organizational Risk

Security automation helps reduce organization risk for OT security by reducing the need for human intervention when it comes to threat detection and incident response activities. OT security teams can deploy automated processes like device quarantine, isolation, device tagging and decoy deployment. When automation is used to enhance vulnerability management, OT security teams can proactively patch assets and monitor threats.

Accelerate OT Security Advancement

Automation is a powerful tool that can help you streamline your processes, increase productivity and reduce costs. It’s also an ideal way to accelerate OT security advancements by automating tasks that would otherwise require manual effort.

By shifting staff’s attention from repetitive tasks to strategic decision-making, security leaders can reduce staff burnout while improving security risk posture. Taking a proactive approach to OT security is the key to unlocking more possibilities with automation.

The Future of IT/OT Alignment

Industry 4.0 depends on automation to support the efficient operation of industrial systems and critical infrastructure. In the future, the need for automation will continue to grow, especially for more user-friendly solutions.

Keep Humans in the Automation Loop

Automation doesn’t remove the need for people – it makes their lives easier. By automating repetitive, time-consuming tasks, security professionals free up their time to focus on alerts that require more critical thinking.

Much like the rest of the cybersecurity industry, OT security leaders will struggle to find qualified talent. Rigid, overly-complex solutions – like Legacy SOAR – will be too burdensome to integrate into understaffed IT/OT teams.

To increase the efficiency of existing security professionals, organizations will need to turn to low-code options. Low-code security automation uses a powerful automation engine, without requiring heavy coding from the user. This saves security teams time to then focus on triaging alerts and proactively protecting assets.

Expand Security Automation Beyond the SOC

Security will become an even greater priority for enterprise stakeholders. In the future, the demand for automation beyond conventional security use cases will escalate. Threats are evolving – think brand impersonation, fraud and insider threats.

Organizations will need to introduce a centralized security automation solution across even more siloed departments, like HR and legal. Some low-code security automation solutions, like Swimlane Turbine, are adaptable and scalable enough to provide this expansive case management.

As the integration of OT and IT systems grows via automation, so too will the opportunity to realize greater efficiencies in industries from manufacturing, to oil and gas, to utilities. Approachable automation, like low-code, is the key to protecting the entire organization – and maybe one day, integrating the entire supply chain.

Solutions For Energy & Utilities

Learn how Swimlane low-code security automation helps the Energy and Utilities sector. Protect critical assets and employees from threats in real-time.


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