Bachir Moussa, Regional Director MEAR, Nozomi Networks, speaks to Anita Joseph, Editor, Security Advisor Middle East, about how the OT landscape is becoming increasingly converged and how Nozomi Networks is stepping in to empower customers unlock visibility across this connected architecture.
How are digitalization and the Industrial Internet of Things redefining traditional enterprise OT systems?
Digitalization and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are enabling transformation in two ways: first, it’s changing the way organizations think about managing their operational networks. It’s also changing the way systems are connected and deployed. If we look at the first part-the systems-we can see that IIoT & digitalization are making them more efficient. It’s making them more connected, and it’s changing the way they have been deployed in the past where they used to be segregated and not connected to the outside world. This means that things can be done quicker and that an organization can have an enterprise-wide strategy that includes OT, rather than just IT as it was in the past. This does open up the potential for security risks, however, that can always be managed.
From a thought process perspective or changing the mindset of how people have been working in this space, in the past they were focused on keeping the lights on and keeping the system operating which is very, very important in the OT space. Today, they are now leveraging IIoT devices and converging OT and IT networks to keep the lights on with greater operational efficiencies and without any impact. OT leaders & OT teams are now operating and working with the rest of the organization from a digitalization perspective. It’s changing the way they work and the way they collaborate. To summarize, digitalization is changing the thought process of the OT leaders, and the OT people in this space. Operational networks are becoming more connected and making the enterprise a more connected environment.
With environments becoming more connected & converged, do you think companies are actually investing in advanced cybersecurity solutions, and if not, why?
The short answer is, yes, they are. If we look at this region, they’ve actually been investing a lot in this space. I regularly sit down with my friends in the cybersecurity industry and talk with them about this specific topic. I find that they are seeing that their business is growing, because this convergence is causing organizations to make sure they secure their environment. And, as a result, they have to invest in cybersecurity to ensure that they keep operating without any impact. Plus, we’ll always keep going back to COVID-we’ll always mention remote access-how people are working from home. Remote access is very important, but secure remote access is what keeps businesses running and operating.
In addition, if we bring it back to our space around the OT environment, convergence means connectivity and connectivity means systems are no longer segregated and operating on their own as they did in the past. As a result, when you’re converged and connected, you need to ensure that you have the right cybersecurity solutions. We are seeing a large demand in the space around cybersecurity for OT. This is why I go back to my answer and say, yes, they are investing in advanced cyber security solutions.
How does Nozomi Networks, empower customers with solutions and tools to unlock visibility across their OT, IoT and IT architectures?
At Nozomi Networks, we believe that visibility is the trigger to allow you to provide the right and relevant cybersecurity initiatives in your organization. Currently, one of the challenges we see in the space of OT visibility is that there is still a lot of work being done manually and in a legacy way where environments and databases of solutions they have or their assets is all tracked manually. in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. We empower the OT teams by giving them automated and real time visibility across the OT, IoT and IT architectures. We let them know everything that’s happening in the network. And in a way, this visibility turns into an asset management tool. This empowers them to make decisions more accurately and in real time because they’re now up to date with what’s happening. Plus, it allows them to take the burden away from doing things manually, into operating in a more efficient manner and allowing them to be part of the digitalization program of the organization. So, we give them the power to make the right decisions while freeing up their time to be more digitalized and enabled.
How would you describe the demand for advanced OT cybersecurity solutions in the region?
This region is a very interesting one and I say interesting because it tries to always be ahead of the curve when it comes to deploying solutions across all the different spaces- we see in UAE where we live, that it’s leading the world in terms of initiatives, particularly the technology initiatives and services that it provides to its people. This is all very nice, since it makes our life easier, but behind the scenes, there are people working very hard to make sure all this is secured in a proper manner, to keep us safe and operating smoothly. So, I see a huge demand in cybersecurity solutions in the region for a couple of reasons: one, as I mentioned is the various initiatives that take place to stay ahead of the rest of the world which in turn, drives cybersecurity and two, governments are seeing the importance of cybersecurity and they are putting compliance measures in place to drive organizations to adhere to those compliance measures.
How about your cloud and edge-based offerings, how do they help businesses in their digital transformation journey?
A couple of years ago, if we talked about Cloud & OT, it was not something people were ready to hear. But at Nozomi Networks, we could see the trend-that cloud is an enabler to digitalization & organizational efficiency-and we thought about how we can change the mindset of the OT landscape by allowing them to think about cloud as being an “enabler space.” So, about eight months ago we released, our product, Vantage, which is a cloud offering for the management of OT, IoT and IIoT environments. Why is this important? It’s an enabler because for digital transformation to work, network visibility and monitoring solutions needs to be seamless, need to be infinitely scalable to support growing volumes of IIoT devices and connections and need to be easy to adopt and easy to deploy. A cloud-based solution allows you to do all that.
With Vantage, organizations are able to manage their environment, anywhere at any time without having to be physically located at the office or connected into the office. So, this makes it seamless, easy to manage and easy to access. Secondly, as we converge IT, OT and IIoT together, this means that growth is becoming exponential, and a cloud solution enables growth. With a cloud solution, it becomes easy to scale significantly without having to worry about buying additional hardware or the timing of its deployment- the solution grows with you as you grow.
Our edge offerings are still on premises, because with OT it’s very important to ensure that not all the data is not going to the cloud and the data is secure. So, our edge solutions are on premises-still deployed on the customer side, and we are sending the meta data up to the cloud, to allow for the management of the solution. To answer how it helps businesses with digital transformation, again, it becomes an enabler, making it easy for them to transform and to become more efficient as an organization by leveraging the cloud.
How will SaaS impact OT security and will it change the way OT security and the way visibility is provided and managed?
The trend that we are seeing in the region is OT visibility and Security as a Service- organizations are reaching out to experts in this space to offer managed services solutions, and asking them to give them the security and visibility of OT-as-a-service. This is the first step, we are working with those managed service providers to enable them to provide the service to organizations. In addition, our Vantage SaaS offering is already available. So, there are two ways organizations can work with it. One, they can continue the trend that they’re doing now, of reaching out to the experts, and the experts will work with us around our SaaS offering (Vantage) to help provide those offerings to the organizations, or two, if the organization is ready on its own to manage its OT environment, they can connect directly to our SaaS Vantage offering and do all the management and deployment, and have global visibility from one location to everything that’s happening in their space.
Finally, another important point about SaaS is that organizations are becoming interconnected, not just in one geographical region, but across the globe. SaaS is enabling that to happen, because you can have someone in the UAE managing their network in South America, for example, or someone in the US managing part of their network that’s in Europe. So, SaaS breaks down geographical barriers and allows organizations to manage everything from any location, but at the same time, it has to be secure and it has to meet all the other requirements that organizations have. And for us, as Vantage, security is the prime point that provide to ensure organizations can manage their OT environment, in a secure manner.
Finally, what are your plans for the region?
I’m based in the UAE looking after the region, and I can confidently say that Nozomi Networks has been growing in this region and we’ve had a lot of respect from this region early on and we started very early on. We’re proud to say that we came here and provided organizations with a vendor they can trust and now we’ve become partners with them. So, our focus on this region will continue growing. Whenever we develop solutions, we’ll keep this region in mind, since this is a region we really are proud to be part of. This is also a region we’re focusing heavily on to continue supporting our partners and our customers.