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Part 2: Energy Sector Insights: 7 Key Indicators in Choosing the Right OT Cybersecurity Service Provider + 9 Questions to Ask

By Jacob Marzloff, Armexa Co-Founder, President and CEO
June 22, 2024

Continuing from our part 1 discussion on selecting the right OT security service provider for your energy operations, this second part of our series covers the remaining three critical factors. These aspects are crucial for ensuring that your provider can offer effective protection tailored to your specific needs.

#5 Vendor-Neutral Solutions

A vendor-neutral approach is a testament to your OT security provider’s commitment to your organization’s best interests. It ensures that your security strategy is flexible, tailored and driven by a genuine dedication to protecting your energy operations.

A provider that offers vendor-neutral solutions isn’t bound to any specific hardware or software manufacturer. This independence empowers them to assess your OT environment objectively, free from any biases influenced by commercial interests.

Here’s why this matters:

Customized Recommendations

A vendor-neutral provider can conduct a thorough assessment of your existing OT infrastructure and security needs without pushing certain products. They can tailor their recommendations to align with your organization’s unique requirements. This ensures that the security measures proposed aren’t driven by profit motives but are genuinely geared toward enhancing your OT security.

Integration Flexibility

In OT environments, it’s common to have a mix of equipment and technologies from different manufacturers. A vendor-neutral approach allows your security provider to integrate security solutions across various vendors’ products. This flexibility is essential to ensure that all your OT equipment stays protected, no matter where it comes from.

Cost Efficiency

Vendor-neutral solutions can lead to cost savings. By avoiding lock-in to specific vendors, you have the freedom to choose cost-effective and efficient solutions within your budget. This approach promotes fiscal responsibility without sacrificing the security of your critical infrastructure.

Reduced Reliance on a Single Vendor

Relying only on one vendor for your security needs can pose risks, such as limited options and potential vulnerabilities tied to that vendor’s technology. Vendor-neutral providers mitigate this risk by offering a broader range of solutions, reducing dependence on any single source.

#6 Industrial Control System (ICS) Expertise

In the context of energy operations, Industrial Control Systems (ICS) are the backbone of your infrastructure.

ICS expertise within your OT security service provider will give you confidence that your control systems will be protected comprehensively, with a focus on preserving the safety, reliability and continuity of your operations.

Here’s why ICS expertise is indispensable:

Understanding the Specific Challenges

ICS environments are different from traditional IT networks. They’re characterized by real-time processes, legacy systems and specific communication protocols. An ICS-savvy provider understands these complexities and can work through this specialized field skillfully.

Architectural Knowledge

ICS expertise involves a thorough grasp of your control systems’ structure. This understanding enables the provider to spot possible weaknesses and create security solutions, without disrupting your energy operations.

Protocols and Communication

A provider well-versed in ICS cybersecurity understands all of the communication protocols and data interchange methods used within your control systems and knows how to secure them. They can also implement strategies for secure data transmission and communication, preventing unauthorized access or tampering.

Minimizing Operational Disruption

One of the biggest challenges in ICS cybersecurity is implementing security measures without disrupting operations. An ICS expert can strike the delicate balance between enhancing security and ensuring that your energy systems continue to function seamlessly.

Threat Detection and Response

ICS cybersecurity involves proactive threat detection and rapid incident response. An ICS-savvy provider can deploy specialized tools and techniques to identify anomalies and potential threats in real-time, enabling swift action to mitigate risks.

#7 Proven Track Record

A proven track record is an indisputable testament to an OT security service provider’s reliability, competence and ability to deliver results. Energy companies should consider this factor as a cornerstone of their evaluation process when selecting a provider.

Industry-Specific References

Pay particular attention to providers with experience in the energy sector. References from other energy companies can serve as testimonials to the provider’s capability to secure critical infrastructure within the industry. It also signifies an understanding of the specific challenges and nuances that energy operations entail.

Incident Response Effectiveness

Assess how the provider has handled security incidents in the past. A provider’s track record in incident response can be indicative of their ability to mitigate threats swiftly and minimize operational disruptions.

Long-Term Success

Consider providers with a history of long-term success and ongoing partnerships with clients. This demonstrates not only their initial competence but also their ability to maintain and adapt security measures over time as the threat landscape evolves.

9 Key Questions to Ask

It’s important to ask the right questions to make sure you choose a reliable and competent OT security provider. Here are 9 key questions to ask when shopping for services:

    1. What is your experience in securing OT environments, particularly in our industry?
    2. Can you provide references or case studies from clients in our industry?
    3. What is your approach to risk assessment and vulnerability management in OT systems?
    4. How do you stay up-to-date with the latest cybersecurity threats and trends in OT?
    5. What compliance standards and regulations do you specialize in, and how do you help clients maintain compliance?
    6. Do you offer vendor-neutral solutions, and how do you approach the integration of security measures in technology diverse environments?
    7. What incident response capabilities do you have in place, and can you provide examples of how you’ve handled security incidents in the past?
    8. How do you balance security with operational continuity in OT systems?
    9. What is your long-term strategy for adapting security measures to evolving threats?


Selecting the right OT security service provider for your energy operations is an important decision that can greatly impact the safety, reliability, security and continuity of your business.

By considering the detailed factors discussed across parts 1 and 2 of our series, you can make an informed choice that aligns with your unique needs and risk tolerance.

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