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March Madness and ICS Risk Management: Lessons from the Court to the Control Room

When March rolls around, basketball fans are tuned into one of the most exhilarating events in sports; an annual college basketball tournament held in the United States, known as March Madness. 

Meanwhile, in the realm of cybersecurity and industrial control systems (ICS), professionals are engaged in a different kind of madness – managing risks to protect critical infrastructure. Surprisingly, there are valuable lessons that ICS risk management can draw from the world of college basketball. 

The Game Plan: Preparation is Key 

Just as a basketball team meticulously prepares for each game, organizations must thoroughly assess and understand the risks to their industrial control systems. This involves identifying industrial assets and vulnerabilities, evaluating potential threats and implementing robust security measures. Much like how coaches strategize based on their team's strengths and weaknesses, cybersecurity professionals must tailor their approach and identify, evaluate and prioritize specific risks within their organization's ICS environment. 

Defense Wins Championships: Proactive Security Measures 

In basketball, a solid defense can often mean the difference between victory and defeat. Similarly, in ICS risk management, proactive defense is crucial. This includes measures such as network segmentation, access control, regular security audits and employee training. By establishing strong defensive mechanisms, organizations can significantly reduce the likelihood of successful cyberattacks on their critical infrastructure.  

Offense: Responding to Threats with Agility 

Strong teams adjust their offensive strategies based on the opposing team's defense; organizations must be agile in responding to emerging cyber threats. This requires monitoring ICS networks, rapid incident response capabilities and effective communication channels to coordinate response efforts. Similarly to a point guard orchestrating plays on the court, cybersecurity professionals must coordinate with various stakeholders to swiftly mitigate cyber risks and minimize the impact of potential breaches. 

The Power of Teamwork: Collaboration Across Silos 

Teamwork is essential for success. Effective ICS risk management relies on collaboration across departments and disciplines. IT, operational technology (OT) and security teams must work together to ensure the security and resilience of industrial control systems. Just as basketball players trust their teammates to execute plays, cybersecurity professionals must trust each other to fulfill their respective roles in safeguarding critical infrastructure. 

Playing to Win: Continuous Improvement 

In March Madness, teams strive to outperform their opponents with each game, aiming for ultimate victory. Similarly, in ICS risk management, organizations must continually improve their security posture to stay ahead of evolving cyber threats. This involves ongoing risk assessments, regular security updates and learning from past incidents to strengthen defenses for the future. By adopting a mindset of continuous improvement, organizations can better adapt to the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape and mitigate risks effectively. 

Conclusion: From the Court to the Control Room 

While the stakes may differ, the principles of strategy, teamwork and continuous improvement are fundamental to both teams competing in the March Madness tournament and ICS risk management. By applying these lessons to the control room, organizations can enhance their ability to protect critical infrastructure from cyber threats and achieve wins in the game of cybersecurity. Just as a well-coached basketball team can overcome formidable opponents, a well-prepared and agile cybersecurity team can defend against even the most sophisticated cyber adversaries. So, each time March Madness unfolds, let's remember that the key to success lies not only in the game plan but also in the resilience, teamwork and determination of those tasked with guarding our most vital systems and infrastructure. 

About the Author

Chad Elmendorf is marketing director for Hexagon’s PAS OT Integrity platform designed to secure complex, multivendor OT/ICS environments by reducing your attack surface, remediating vulnerabilities, strengthening cyber resiliency, and lowering enterprise risk. He holds a BS in Marketing and MBA from the University of Wyoming.

Profile Photo of Chad Elmendorf