Operational Technology

How to Design and Deliver an OT Cyber Security Training Course?

Operational technology (OT) is the backbone of our critical infrastructure, including water treatment facilities, power generation plants, and manufacturing. As the Internet and other digital technologies become increasingly integrated into these systems, the global community must realize the importance of cyber security in safeguarding the technologies that make the world function smoothly.

Apart from technical measures like firewalls and network segmentation, cyber security training for employees is a crucial element in strengthening OT defenses against common attack vectors like social engineering and malware.

Proposed Syllabus for an OT Cyber Security Awareness Training Session

A comprehensive OT Cyber Security training program should cover the following key areas: (This fictional session assumes that the OT employees have no prior cyber security training or experience.)

1. Introduction to Cyber Security for OT

  • Start the session by explaining what cyber security means in the context of OT and how the integration with IT impacts the security landscape.
  • Emphasize why cyber security is important for operational technology and how disruptions to these systems can severely affect society.

2. The Operational Technology Threat Landscape

  • Discuss the main threats to OT security, including legacy systems, patch management challenges, and increasing reliance on network technologies.
  • Introduce the audience to the current threat landscape and active attackers, including ransomware groups, state-sponsored actors, and insider threats.

3. The Impact of OT Security Breaches

  • Use examples of previous high-impact breaches on operational technology to demonstrate the significant consequences of inadequate cyber security measures. Some examples include the Ukrainian Power Grid attack in 2015 and the Colonial Pipeline breach in 2021.
  • Provide examples of how a breach in your organization could affect operation continuity and the safety and comfort of employees and the public.
4. Recognizing Malicious Emails and Social Engineering Tactics
  • Lastly, provide actionable advice on how to recognize and respond to active threats, including phishing attacks. Since this is the first session, it’s okay to keep things high-level and cover multiple topics. Future sessions can dive deeper into specific areas of concern.

OT Cyber Security Awareness Training Best Practices

While any form of cyber security training can help spread awareness throughout the organization, there are certain best practices you should follow to maximize the reach and effectiveness of the training program:

1. Utilize Interactive Elements and Gamification

Security awareness training is like any form of education. Just because the audience is older than a college class, it doesn’t mean they will automatically focus and grasp the provided content. That’s why incorporating interactive and gamified elements into the training program is one of the first steps toward capturing and retaining the audience’s attention.

Elements like leaderboards, points, or rewards for identifying threats can motivate users to actively participate in the training, helping them grasp and retain information.

2. Segment the Content for Different Roles

Organizations dealing with operational technology typically have a diverse range of roles, from engineers and technicians to administrative staff and management. Each group has different levels of interaction with OT systems and, consequently, varying needs for cyber security knowledge.

By segmenting the training content to cater to these distinct roles, organizations can ensure that each employee receives information relevant to their specific responsibilities. This will make the training more efficient and effective.

3. Measure the Training’s Effectiveness

Another key aspect of delivering quality training is continually improving. To do so, use quizzes, surveys, and other feedback from participants to understand how they interact with the content, both in terms of how much they’ve learned and how engaged they are with the material.

This data will give you insights into the strengths and weaknesses of your current approach and identify areas for improvement. Another tip to maximize training effectiveness is to keep the content fresh and relevant to the latest trends and security threats.

Build a Stronger OT Cyber Resilience through a Stable Learning Framework

  • Operational technology (OT) is increasingly interconnected with information technology (IT) and the internet, necessitating a rapid and proactive cyber security response from governments and industries.
  • Security awareness training (SAT) is a critical component of boosting cyber resilience among OT operators, equipping their workforce with the skills and knowledge necessary to identify and respond to cyber threats.
  • Apart from the initial training sessions, organizations must establish a stable learning framework that keeps employees informed and prepared for the latest threats.

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