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Not too long ago, there was a clear separation between the operational technology (OT) that drives the physical functions of a company – on the factory floor, for example – and the information technology (IT) that manages a company’s data to enable management and planning.

As IT assets became increasingly connected to the outside world via the internet, OT remained isolated from IT – and the rest of the world.

However, the spread of Industrial IoT (IIoT) as well as the need for constant monitoring and tracking information from manufacturing and assembly lines mean the connection between IT and OT systems has greatly expanded. OT is no longer isolated. OT is now just as exposed to the outside world as IT is.

What does this mean for OT security, where hard-to-access devices needed for 24/7 production are difficult to patch? Let’s take a look.

The Air Gap Is Gone

Not so long ago, any data exchange between IT and OT operated via a “sneaker net.” An operator would physically go to a terminal connected to the OT device, offload data covering a recent period, and carry the offloaded data to their workstation, where they then upload it to the organization’s IT system.

images from Hacker News