What is Operational Technology (OT)?

I have been asked several times, at several occasions about this mysterious term called OT. While it stands for Operational Technology, what is Operational Technology?

Few years ago, I stood in front of a large audience from diverse backgrounds such as Process control, Maintenance, IT and management and delivering a motivating speech on cybersecurity for manufacturing, while I had never used the word OT in the context of Industrial Control System, the word existed but not necessarily used as commonly as today.

While different individuals use it differently to describe their trade, especially in Industrial Cybersecurity practice, the word itself has become somewhat of a open secret, we think we know what it means, but do we really? So to tackle this problem, I asked a bunch of people in my closest professional circle and tried to define it myself. While the definition of OT might change, but as far as I am concerned, what I am about to tell you will still be relevant because instead of defining all the different systems that the Operational Technology represents, I will simply define what it represents.

So here you,

Operational technology (OT) is a set of hardware, software, and communication systems that are used to monitor, control, and automate industrial processes. OT systems are typically used in critical infrastructure industries such as manufacturing, energy, and transportation.

These can include IACS and Control System Components, Information Technology components that are part of the control systems etc., but are defined by the organization to appropriately apply the necessary security measures and controls.

Lets look at a diagram. Yes, that is MS Paint and I did create it 5 years ago. As you can see, OT, Operational Technology is an umbrella term defined by the organization to include systems such as Industrial Automation and Control systems (IACS), Fire Systems, Access Control Systems, Lighting Controls etc.

What is the relevance of defining Operational Technology?

The importance of defining OT for your organization is simply to be able to develop / design and implement appropriate security controls and measures to protect your business operations. Properly identifying what falls inside the OT environment and what falls outside, what is included and what is excluded, will provide you with the right information to develop your OT Cybersecurity Strategy.

Do you have any comments or suggestions to improve this definition? Send me a message.

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