Our five OT security predictions for 2024

aXite Security Tools and DTACT are entering into a strategic partnership to strengthen the resilience of Operational Technology (OT) systems.

In the rapidly evolving world of Operational Technology (OT), cybersecurity challenges have significantly increased over the past year. While traditional IT systems have long been the focus of cybercrime, the growing integration of OT into digital infrastructures has become a new playing field for cybercriminals.

Organizations and countries faced a growing threat of cyber attacks specifically aimed at disrupting industrial processes last year. This development calls for an integrated security approach, where organizations not only protect the trusted boundaries of their IT environment but also pay attention to the sensitivity of their operational processes. This trend in 2023 has led to greater awareness within companies about the vulnerability of their OT systems. But what can we expect next year in the OT security domain? aXite Security Tools, the Dutch cybersecurity company OT, makes five OT security predictions for 2024.

The five OT security predictions of 2024

1. More physical damage and geopolitical threats:

Historically, the primary goal of malware and cyber attacks was to disrupt business operations. In 2024, however, it is expected that cybercriminals will shift their focus even more towards causing physical damage to the operational technology of both companies and countries. Recent events, including wars and increasing geopolitical tensions, amplify the threat to operational technology systems. In this climate of heightened risks, hacktivism, politically motivated cybercrime, is expected to become even more prominent in 2024. Military groups are likely to employ specialized cybercriminals more frequently to carry out targeted attacks on critical infrastructures, such as airports and power plants.

Furthermore, the rise of AI creates a kind of ‘arms race’ between cybercriminals and security professionals, with both parties trying to constantly improve their technologies and strategies to stay ahead. It is crucial that organizations and countries are aware of these developments and adapt to the changing threat environment.

2. More risks in the supply chain:
In addition to direct threats, the risk of collateral damage exists. Cyber attacks on OT systems can have unintended consequences, with potentially far-reaching effects on other organizations. This threat is anticipated to escalate in 2024 as operational systems, driven by the trends of increasing digitization, globalization, and outsourcing, continue to exchange more information within their interconnected chains. A supply chain attack involves targeting a company through another entity in the same chain. Cybercriminals may choose the path of least resistance by attacking a less secure company with ties to the intended target when aiming at a well-secured organization. Consequently, more organizations are likely to become victims of cyber attacks, such as ransomware, leading to disruptions in operational activities.

3. Expansion of IoT and increase in DDoS bot attacks:
With the rapid increase in the number of devices in OT environments, the risk of large-scale Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) botnet attacks will also grow in 2024. This threat is reinforced by the fact that many Internet of Things (IoT) devices are often inadequately secured with deficient built-in cybersecurity measures.

Organizations are tasked with taking proactive measures to arm themselves against this growing threat. Improving the security of IoT devices, implementing effective cybersecurity protocols, and monitoring network traffic are essential steps. Additionally, awareness and training of employees are crucial to reduce vulnerabilities in the system. The urgency to strengthen security is further emphasized by the potential damage that can arise from large-scale DDoS botnet attacks. It is not only a matter of protection at the organizational level but also of ensuring the stability and integrity of the broader digital ecosystem.

4. Outsourcing of OT security:
With the exponential increase in cybersecurity risks, organizations have a growing demand for experienced security and IT talent. The shortage of qualified personnel leads to considerations of alternatives, including outsourcing core functions such as OT security. This trend is expected to increase in 2024, with organizations enlisting external expertise to strengthen their security measures. By collaborating with external experts, organizations can respond quickly and effectively to evolving threats, overcoming not only the shortage of internal talent but also benefiting from extensive knowledge of the latest threats and effective defense strategies.

5. Implementation of NIS2 directive in the Netherlands:
The Dutch government has until March 2024 to implement the NIS2 directive. In the coming months, specific attention will be given to enforcement and oversight of the implementation. Competent authorities will be appointed to conduct checks and verify whether organizations comply with NIS2. This also applies to OT systems, which are increasingly linked to IT systems. Companies are encouraged to proactively comply with NIS2 guidelines to ensure the security of vital infrastructures. In 2024, the cybersecurity community faces challenges that require proactive and collaborative approaches. Organizations are encouraged to sharpen their security measures and prepare for evolving threats in the digital world.

Bert Willemsen, Executive Vice President of aXite Security Tools: “In the rapidly evolving world of OT security, collaboration and proactive measures are crucial. Our predictions for 2024 underscore the urgent need for organizations to act collectively and strengthen their OT systems. Only by anticipating and collectively investing in robust and innovative security measures we can maintain the integrity of essential services and vital infrastructure in an increasingly complex digital environment.”

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