Over a quarter of facility managers faced cyber security breaches of their OT systems

OT systems

A Honeywell survey has found that about 27 percent of surveyed building facility managers have experienced a cyber breach of their OT systems over the last year, and 66 percent of respondents view managing OT cybersecurity as one of their most difficult responsibilities. 

Around 44 percent of respondents currently have a cybersecurity solution in place to protect their buildings’ OT systems from potential threats, Honeywell reported. Furthermore, only one-third of those surveyed plan to invest in OT cybersecurity products over the next 12 to 18 months. COVID-19, among other drivers, has prompted many respondents to adjust their near-term priorities.

A majority, about 56 percent, are currently more willing to invest in safety-focused solutions including OT cybersecurity than they were before the onset of the pandemic, data showed. 33 percent of surveyed education facility managers reported such an incident — eight percentage points higher than respondents in the data center sector, who reported the next highest incidence (26 percent).

Digital transformation and the proliferation of smart devices throughout connected buildings deliver an enterprise-wide view of building control systems and are key to driving productivity, operational efficiency, and improved response time to events while ensuring a sustainable building ecosystem. 

Installing technology to integrate all building management systems into a single platform would aggregate data from across disparate systems into a single source allowing facility managers to better develop insights, make informed decisions, potentially reduce costs and improve their cybersecurity management efficiency, the report said. 

Conducted by Honeywell Building Technologies, the report titled, “Protecting Operational Technology in Facilities from Cyber Threats: Constraints and Realities,” is the third in Honeywell’s 2021 Building Trends series. The latest report revealed that improving cybersecurity for operational technology (OT) systems ranks as one of the top priorities for surveyed facility managers over the next 12 to 18 months. This measure comes as about 71 percent of surveyed facility managers consider OT cybersecurity a concern or worry. 

The survey was conducted online by KRC Research among facility managers across the three markets of the United States, Germany, and China. 

As IT and OT systems continue to converge, it’s more essential than ever for organizations to assess potential cyber risk across their OT environments and take action to enhance their security posture, Honeywell said. The threat landscape continues to evolve at dizzying speed, and facility managers can provide critical insider’s input in developing and implementing a vigilant cybersecurity strategy to protect vital OT systems. 

“Conversations about cybersecurity often focus on IT and safeguarding data and assets, but OT cybersecurity is just as critical when you think of the potential effects,” Mirel Sehic, global cybersecurity director, Honeywell Building Technologies, said. “Imagine a ransomware attack on a hospital’s OT system where staff are locked out of their computers. A building’s OT environment should be monitored and maintained just like an IT system and should not be overlooked,” he added. 

“A building’s OT environment should be monitored and maintained as rigorously as an IT system, but oftentimes the importance of practicing strong cyber and digital hygiene in OT systems is overlooked and underfunded,” Sehic said. “This evolution will likely continue as more control systems such as HVAC, energy metering, power management, lighting and fire protection, and alarms converge in a connected environment,” he added.

“The impact of cyber incidents can go beyond mere financial loss; operational and reputational damage can be equally devastating if not more so. By understanding the cybersecurity risks surrounding building OT systems, facility managers and IT personnel alike can better position themselves to make smart buying decisions, implement targeted OT security controls and maintain heightened cyber resilience across OT environments.” 

The survey throws light on the OT cybersecurity challenges, concerns, and priorities of surveyed facility managers across four sectors — education, healthcare, data centers, and commercial real estate in the three surveyed markets of the United States, Germany, and China.

Data center respondents predictably lead the sectors, with 51 percent having a solution, while healthcare facilities trail the other sectors with a surprisingly low 39 percent. U.S. facilities lead the countries, with 48 percent of respondents report having an OT cyber solution, the survey added.

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