The real vulnerabilities lie in operation technology: Gartner

Analyst warns that one of the biggest threats lies in unsecured operational technologies

Lax password implementation has meant that operational technology (OT) is now vulnerable to security attacks.

Gartner managing VP, Christian Byrnes, made the observation during the Gartner Security Summit in Sydney, a topic he said is commonly dubbed in security literature as the “IT/OT problem.”

OT is hardware and software that detects changes in state and monitors physical devices, which may be typically connected to the Internet for further functionality.

“IT is being rapidly integrated with business approaches, leading to OT security problems,” Byrnes said.

The Stuxnet malware in 2010, which was responsible for infecting a uranium enrichment infrastructure in Iran, was an example of an OT attack.

The more the industry looks at OT based systems, the more Byrnes said it finds that they are unsecure.

“They are already out there and connected to the Internet, and they are in fact not secure,” he said.

For one, there is the recurring issue of fixed passwords used to access the systems.

“They have administrative and management passwords that are published in the manuals for the devices, and those manuals are available on the Internet,” Byrnes said.

Privacy on the horizon

Whether it is from the technology, social and commercial perspective, Byrnes said the biggest challenge facing organisations is security.

“You and I are going to be deeply involved in this, and it is going to happen soon,” he said.

Going hand-in-hand with the issue of security is the emerging complexity around privacy.

As a result, Byrnes expects that IT administrators will become more involved with privacy discussions, policy negotiations, and compliance issues.

Patrick Budmar covers consumer and enterprise technology breaking news for IDG Communications. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_budmar.