Why is Software Defined Networking So Important?

When it was revealed that the Russian-backed Conti group had carried out a cyberattack that caused the country of Costa Rica to declare a national emergency, the deeply consequential nature of such an incident and threat was solidified. While one case, the attack, which impacted financial and governmental organizations, highlights a much larger trend. Cybercriminals have their eyes set on critical infrastructure. So, what do we do about this? Much of the answer lies in protecting OT. And one crucial solution to accomplishing this is adopting software defined networking.

OT Cybersecurity is Everyone’s Security

As we’ve covered before, the convergence of IT and OT is a game-changer. It is re-defining the way we can carry out operations. At the same time, it is exposing OT unlike it has been before. Although this may seem like just an industrial issue, it isn’t. Everyday government functions rely on OT too. Think, as a piece for Dark Reading points out, components ranging from security cameras to increased implementation of smart buildings. And if a government is attacked, so could national security. In addition to the example of Costa Rica, we also have Ukraine to look to as well as threats to the U.S.

On top of government, if critical infrastructure like energy, water, etc. is compromised, then there is the potential of a major trickle-down effect. Considering all of this, it becomes quite clear that OT security, then, closely relates to everyone’s security. Therefore, cybersecurity is absolutely necessary.

Trends Impacting OT Cybersecurity

Automation.com summarizes that recent attacks on OT tend to follow three general trends. One of the biggest is the length of time attackers have been able to infiltrate systems for. Through advanced capabilities and a more sophisticated understanding of OT and IoT processes, cyber criminals have learned to target “centralized control and management capabilities as a single point of failure achieving longer dwell times,” as described by Jacob Chapman and Danielle Jablanski.

As we continue to grow our awareness and comprehension of such problems, a greater emphasis on OT cybersecurity innovation has ensued. Methods such as defense in depth have been explored, which we discussed in a previous post. But there are other approaches gaining traction too. New fields like provenance analysis have popped up. This type of research focuses on tracing the sources of attacks, in order to prevent them in the future. While such analysis depends on being able to gather large amounts of data, there is one key solution that could make this and OT cybersecurity easier to achieve overall – software-defined networking (SDN).

Securing the Path Forward with SDN

While SDN has been around for some time, it has continued to improve. At its core, SDN involves virtualizing functions and network assets so that they can be accessed via a centralized platform. This allows enhanced visibility and control. In turn, operators can apply more proactive strategies. The same goes for cybersecurity. In the evolution of SDN, automation has become a more prominent feature making it even simpler to detect any notable activity and apply protective measures in response.

Furthermore, the current stage of more automated SDN streamlines the process of running updates ensuring that systems are always running at the most relevant level. In the long run, SDN will also help cut costs. It is scalable, and, therefore, minimizes the need for future hardware purchases.

One of SDN’s standard elements and biggest benefits of all is its ability to reduce the attack surface. It accomplishes this through network segmentation in which functions are compartmentalized. So, if one operation is taken advantage of, the vulnerability can be taken care of before the effect spreads.

The adoption of SDN has skyrocketed across a number of industries, especially in the IT realm. According to Cisco, some of the leading areas are data centers, WANs and access networks. And the 2022 ISG Provider Lens™ Network — Software Defined Solutions and Services report named AT&T, Verizon and Comcast among the top companies participating in the SDN game and the other technologies that stem from it. In fact, Comcast Business completed an acquisition of enterprise software-defined networking and cloud platform technology developer Masergy Communications in 2021 allowing it to venture further into the SDN and software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) demand.

Because IT and OT are more interconnected these days, we can look to these IT examples as a foreshadowing of the market that will continue to grow around OT as well. Not only does it simplify operations, a significant reason such companies are enhancing their efforts, but it has security benefits. And as we’ve pointed out, protecting OT cybersecurity is a mounting priority to addressing large-scale issues. For more on SDN and OT, read our piece, “Software Defined Networking – ‘The Next Big Thing in OT.’”

Sources:

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