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Is OT Cybersecurity Really THAT Different from IT?

Without digital transformation and remote connectivity, businesses cannot be competitive in the 21st century and beyond. The world is becoming more connected every minute of the day. With the increase in ransomware attacks, coupled with increasing attack surfaces, cybersecurity is important now more than ever. According to a study in 2019, 90% of cyberattacks occurred via phishing. With so much on the line, such as classified information, legal fines, HSE damages, and loss of reputation, it is vital to be prepared. Cyberattacks are not about the “if”, but instead “when” they will occur. 

Industrial cybersecurity focuses on heavy machinery, which is much different than cybersecurity for general purpose computers. In an industrial cybersecurity event, it is not only money or data that is on the line but also safety, as this type of machinery can be dangerous if in the wrong hands (think Stuxnet). 

Two main types of cybersecurity include IT and OT. Though they are coming together in recent years, they are still very different. This blog describes the differences between IT and OT cybersecurity and how Nexus Controls is leading the way in OT cybersecurity solutions.


IT vs OT Cybersecurity

Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) cybersecurity focus on different things. To put it simply—IT focuses on data, and OT focuses on process safety.

IT concentrates on day-to-day operations with IT departments on efforts like managing devices like landlines, mobile phones, laptops, modems, printers, and fax machines connected to corporate networks, external devices like USBs, as well as technical support. IT also concentrates on hardware—not only software. 

Examples of OT cybersecurity devices include Industrial Control Systems (ICS), Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), Next Generation Firewalls (NGFW), and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA). An ICS is a general term to describe hardware and software used in industrial processes. NGFW is part of the third generation of firewall technology. SCADA is system architecture made to monitor and control industrial devices. 

Compared to OT, IT devices have a shorter life cycle. The typical life cycle of IT devices is about two to five years, many times due to the non-availability of security patches from manufacturers. However, some of the OT plants can run on legacy control systems as old as twenty years. Because IT is more associated with connection to the internet, these devices are more prone to cyberattacks that compromise data. Ultimately, IT incidents are more common, and every organization needs this type of security to some extent to keep information secure and controlled.

OT cybersecurity uses hardware and software to focus on larger scale technology like turbines, power systems, heavy equipment, and other industrial machines. Previously, this type of machinery was not always connected to the internet, meaning they were not exposed to cyber threats. However, the more connected these systems become with digital transformation and need to collect sensor data for analytics and predictive maintenance, the more vulnerable they are to attacks. Traditionally, cybersecurity attacks used to be confided to financial and health sectors due to the high levels of payouts. However, in the recent times, attack vectors and attack frequency have shifted to the industrial sector since the impact and consequently the payout are much higher.

This heavy machinery is more destructive if in the wrong hands. Even small OT attacks can mean big monetary losses and even have damaging effects, such as power outages, natural gas leaks, or worse, death

Patching also looks different from an OT standpoint. Patching industrial equipment typically means that the entire industrial plant may have to shut down. Depending on the plant, this could mean problems that affect the general public, such as shutting down water treatment plants. This is why OT machinery rarely gets updated for years at a time.





Data Protection and Control - Confidentiality

Safety and Reliability – Availability and Integrity

Mission Criticality

May be Time sensitive

Very Time Sensitive since lives may be lost


Limited and common

Multiple and proprietary


Off the shelf, Similar in kind – servers, laptop, etc.

Purpose build, Wide variety – PLC, sensors, HMIs, RTU, MPU, etc.



Leave it if it works

Human Resources and Skillsets

Normally a big team dedicated to just IT and Cybersecurity

Typically, a smaller team that may take multiple roles.

Security Patching



Cyber Incident Impact & Frequency

Less impactful but more frequent – more access points

Less Frequent but more impactful – not just financially but on HSE

Benefits of Nexus Controls OT Cybersecurity Solutions

With 14+ years of experience in OT cybersecurity, Nexus Controls realizes the importance of having an experienced partner to guide successful cybersecurity implementation. As a global leader of industrial controls, we are well equipped to help customers improve their OT security posture, as well as support external and internal compliance policies and requirements. 

Our OT cybersecurity offerings hold many benefits for industrial plants. From top-of-the-line security to asset management, we know how important it is to keep your plant up and running securely. The following are some of the biggest benefits to our OT cybersecurity solutions.


Mindset Shift:


Is OT Cybersecurity Really THAT Different from IT



You Produce. We Protect.

In conclusion, IT and OT are quite different—one focusing on data while the latter focuses on process safety. Nexus Controls offers expansive OT cybersecurity solutions based on our deep background and knowledge of operational technology assets and networks. We keep you in compliance and protected from outside threats, so you can focus on producing at optimal output.

Check out our full portfolio of industrial cybersecurity solutions today.