Bridging IT and OT Cybersecurity with AI

Reduce Alerts by 57% with Difenda AIRO

By Andrew Hodges, VP Service Delivery & Product Development, Difenda

In a technology-driven world, where even the most everyday devices are connected to the internet, the line between inconspicuous routine actions and potential security threats is very thin. A mere click on an innocent-looking email or connection to a USB port can trigger a cascade of events. And when the OT network remains largely unsecured, if an IT account gets compromised, it can infiltrate the customer’s Operational Technology (OT) environment and lead to operational outages, or worse. Times call for robust defense mechanisms across sensitive infrastructures, and AI, like Difenda AIRO rises to the challenge.

Difenda AIRO is an Automated Incident Response and Orchestration engine built on native Microsoft Sentinel playbook automation and integrates with customer Microsoft Sentinel instances. It leverages threat enrichment, auto triage, incident scoring, auto-response and service synchronization while using all the Defender XDR Microsoft Security technologies to help customers integrate automation throughout the entire operations processes. It liberates analysts from low-impact tasks and equips them with additional incident context to act swiftly and decisively.

AI’s ability to conduct real-time analysis and detect threats is reshaping cybersecurity. However, maximizing its potential is contingent on seamlessly integrating into both IT and OT spaces. Understanding the interplay between IT and OT is imperative for a resilient defence against complex cyber threats—automation offers a proactive stance with significant benefits to businesses.

The Current Landscape of IT and OT Security

The convergence of IT and OT systems has ushered in a new era of heightened efficiency and productivity in security environments. However, this integration has also introduced new security challenges. With historically separate and highly specialized systems now interconnected, vulnerabilities for cyberattacks have multiplied.

IT systems, typically connected to the internet and thus more exposed, can serve as a gateway for control systems infiltration. OT systems, while largely isolated, can be prone to physical interference and manipulation. When attacks commence, they usually strike at the IT infrastructure first, subsequently infiltrating the OT environment. Therefore, it’s critical to view IT and OT security as two sides of the same coin.

Organizations continue to struggle with, or even worse, completely ignore OT security. It is natural to think that keeping systems on-premise over shifting to the cloud is a valid approach to mitigating cyber risk. However, this approach stifles innovation and actually impedes cyber maturity. Fragmented IT and OT environment monitoring, results in visibility gaps, and delay active threat response. As OT cybersecurity becomes increasingly intertwined with IT, the amalgamation of best practices in both realms is essential for a comprehensive security strategy.

By acknowledging human error and vulnerabilities, such as plugging in something as seemingly benign as an e-cigarette to your computer, the focus shifts to enforcing protocols that mitigate the very real risk of inadvertent threats. Monitoring and controlling these limited points of interface between IT and OT systems stands as the contemporary alternative to the illusion of an absolute air gap, fostering a security landscape that is not only more realistic but also diligently vigilant against both conventional and unforeseen threats.

The Key Role of Automation in Enhancing OT Security

Automation has the potential to play a crucial role in enhancing OT cybersecurity. Automated systems are streamlining threat detection and response across the kill chain. By utilizing machine learning algorithms, automation can aid in the detection of anomalous device behavior that may indicate a cybersecurity threat.

Today, there are many practical benefits of automation to streamline operations. For example, many businesses have alerts that regularly fire but can sometimes be indicative of a serious incident. Automated security operations processes can be tailored to minimize false positives, rapidly enrich alerts, and expedite threat containment. As an example, Difenda AIRO is designed to automatically collect core triage telemetry data, to quickly root out false positives and intelligently take approved remediation actions.

Navigating the Intersection of IT and OT with AI

Navigating the complex dance of IT and OT security requires a nuanced understanding of where these realms intersect, and automation serves as the choreographer for this performance. As AI injects intelligence into the protocols, becoming indispensable for businesses that lack the specialized expertise internally, the role of automation shifts from being supportive to strategic.

Advanced protocols enabled by AI, such as intelligent protocol parsers, can filter through vast amounts of data to identify abnormalities—yet oftentimes businesses lack the in-house expertise to harness these tools. Thus, industry partnerships become instrumental, bringing tailored AI solutions that not only address the unique demands of OT security but also function seamlessly within the limitations of existing IT infrastructures.

Understanding the symbiotic relationship between IT and OT is crucial, as threats frequently traverse both realms. With AI, we can build a robust defense mechanism that not only prevents attacks from spreading across networks but also strengthens the overall resilience of connected systems against sophisticated cyber threats. The business world stands to benefit immensely from this proactive approach.

Bridging the Monitoring Divide with Difenda AIRO

Difenda AIRO excels in bridging the gap between IT and OT security environments, safeguarding the complex mechanics of OT systems while benefiting from the sophisticated defense structures of IT networks.

With Difenda’s strategic deployment of Microsoft Security technologies, our Shield Analytics platform can display both IT and OT data. This centralization provides greater visibility and improves the speed of triage and subsequent responses to quickly mature the overall security posture.

Operating entirely within the customer’s Microsoft environment AIRO streamlines the flow of triage and response activities, while also facilitating the collection of crucial forensic artifacts across both the IT and OT environments. AIRO correlates data from Defender for IoT with data from Microsoft 365 Defender to spot anomalous activity from the same user across the kill chain.

With Difenda AIRO, the ability to respond effectively to an attack originating from the IT environment without disrupting operations in the OT environment is a reality. Depending on the incident, automated response measures can include revoking session access, disabling the affected account, or resetting the password in the IT environment, to stop a threat actor from compromising OT. Once the intruder is expelled, AIRO enables effective containment and management of the incident.

Streamlining Operations: The Efficiency of Automation

With 40% of cybersecurity leaders citing the volume of security alerts as the biggest challenge in their cybersecurity operations center, automation is pivotal. According to a study by Capgemini, over 63% of organizations state that AI has increased threat detection and response speed by at least 12%. Difenda AIRO’s meticulous alert management has been shown to reduce alerts by 57%, leading to faster threat resolution, with high-priority response times averaging 18 min.

Difenda AIRO is expanding the horizons of SOC capabilities by significantly enhancing efficiency and simplifying complex processes. By centralizing all alert information in a single location, AIRO empowers SOCs to consolidate and review security alerts in under two minutes – a substantial improvement over traditional methods. This immediacy in information gathering accelerates the critical triage process, enabling faster and more informed decision-making.

With improvements and efficiencies created through automation, it’s no surprise that Forrester’s Total Economic Impact™ study found that enterprises utilizing automated SOAR capabilities reported a striking 40% improvement in the efficiency of security operations. Custom playbooks like the incident verdict, prioritization scores, user verification, and remote incident response, change how many alerts analysts receive, how alerts are approached and how analysts respond.

In a landscape where every second counts AI helps to quickly identify and address threats that pose the biggest threat. Effectively helping allocate SOC resources.

In Action: Use Cases and Strategic Benefits

With Difenda AIRO, cybersecurity can advance its security strategy, integrating an advanced system that not only reduces the frequency of alerts through its 57% alert management efficiency but also drastically cuts down the average high-priority response time. By aligning with an organization’s existing security infrastructure, Difenda AIRO serves as a robust defensive mechanism against cyber threats, enhancing compliance, and fortifying technical safeguards with:

  • Rapid Consolidation of Alerts: By accumulating all alert information rapidly AIRO enhances the capability of security teams to manage a large volume of alerts effectively.
  • Automated Triage Playbooks: Playbooks are leveraged to speed the triage process, assuring analysts focus their efforts only on the most critical risks.
  • Enhanced Threat Intelligence Collection: With integration capabilities for Microsoft tools and other third-party technologies, AIRO amasses further threat intelligence, elevating its overall defence strategy.
  • Alert Prioritization: Data is analyzed to develop a prioritization score, allowing security operations centers to approach threat management more strategically and allocate resources effectively.
  • Instant Entity Validation: AIRO verifies the importance of entities such as users, endpoints, and cloud services in seconds, determining if they constitute a high-priority threat.
  • Custom Priority Scoring: AIRO’s priority score identifies which alerts warrant attention first even when hundreds of alerts come in at the same time, streamlining operational workflows and ensuring timely intervention.
  • Response Automation: Should a threat be detected, AIRO can execute response playbooks to immediately isolate problematic endpoints or disable user accounts without manual intervention.
  • Reduction of False Positives: By evaluating all data inputs, Difenda AIRO can assign a verdict to alerts, thereby reducing the number of false positives and freeing analysts to address genuine threats.

Through the strategic deployment of automated processes within Difenda AIRO, organizations are not only streamlining their operations but also positioning themselves to be proactive and prepared for the rapidly evolving cybersecurity threat landscape.

Further, the adoption of AI-powered security operations translates into a demonstrable Return on Investment (ROI), as highlighted by Ponemon Institute’s study that revealed that organizations save up to 80% in total cost of security operations when fully employing automation compared to those that have not. Further, organizations on average reduce their security spend by up to 60% when consolidating with Microsoft Security technologies. When you factor in AIRO’s integration with Microsoft Security and its emerging tools, it’s an investment that propels the company toward industry leadership. By minimizing the impact of cyber threats, the adoption of Difenda AIRO translates into sustained growth, enhanced reputation, and significant ROI.

Looking to The Future

As we venture further into the digitized era, the integration of AI with cybersecurity will be crucial in bridging the gap between IT and OT. Difenda AIRO, already a vanguard in this domain, continues to evolve through its alliance with Microsoft Security and emerging innovations like Microsoft Copilot for Security. This collaboration is paving the path to a more integrated, intelligent security posture where AIRO contributes to end-to-end automation of security operations.

As AIRO thrives on data ingestion, it is poised to benefit from these synergies, harnessing the power of AI to enrich threat intelligence, fine-tune predictive analytics, and reinforce automated response strategies. As AIRO aligns more closely with breakthroughs like Microsoft Copilot for Security, the convergence of human expertise with AI’s deep learning capabilities promises to strengthen not just the detection but also the dilution of security threats.

Learn more about Difenda’s work with Microsoft Copilot for Security here.

About the Author

Andrew Hodges, Vice President Service Delivery, strives to continuously evolve our organization through the support of our people and teams. As Vice President Service Delivery, he is responsible for working with the C3 Delivery team to develop and deliver innovative and operationally effective services designed to secure our customers and exceed their expectations. Andrew’s strategic focus and ambitious leadership style have proven his ability to design and execute many complex security and technology projects.

After earning a Bachelor of Commerce in Information Technology Management from Ryerson University and a certificate in Computer Programmer Analyst from Niagara College, Andrew started in the technology community in 2001. Andrew then sharpened his skills over the past twenty-two years in various computer operations and leadership positions. He holds multiple certifications such as CISSP, PCI-P, Microsoft 365 Security Administrator Associate, CompTIA Security+, MCSE (2003), Scrum Master, and ITIL Foundation. With his leadership expertise and ability to strategically motivate his team, Andrew prides himself on building high performing teams operating with high degrees of teamwork to achieve very ambitious goals.

Andrew can be reached online on LinkedIn and

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