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Welcome to the official blog of the ISA Global Cybersecurity Alliance (ISAGCA).

This blog covers topics on automation cybersecurity such as risk assessment, compliance, educational resources, and how to leverage the ISA/IEC 62443 series of standards.

The material and information contained on this website is for general information purposes only. ISAGCA blog posts may be authored by ISA staff and guest authors from the cybersecurity community. Views and opinions expressed by a guest author are solely their own, and do not necessarily represent those of ISA. Posts made by guest authors have been subject to peer review.

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Importance and Challenges of OT Patching in Line with ISA/IEC 62443-2-3

In the realm of Industrial Automation and Control Systems (IACS), effective patch management is critical, and it is governed by ISA/IEC 62443-2-3. This article provides an overview of the importance and challenges of IACS patching according to this standard.


  1. High Vulnerability and Legacy Assets: IACS and their associated software are highly susceptible to cyber threats. The complex and interconnected nature of these systems makes them prime targets for cyberattacks.
  2. Constant Discovery of Vulnerabilities: New vulnerabilities are identified and published almost daily, necessitating continuous monitoring and updates. Staying ahead of these threats requires vigilance and timely patch application.
  3. Malware Exploitation: Cybercriminals actively exploit these vulnerabilities to compromise systems. Without regular patching, systems remain exposed to potential breaches and malware attacks.
  4. Persistent Threats from Old Malware: Due to legacy assets and software, outdated malware can successfully attack unpatched systems, highlighting the necessity for timely updates. Ensuring that all patches are applied can mitigate the risk posed by both new and old threats.


  1. Impact of Changes: Patches represent changes that can affect the safety, reliability, certification and performance of IACS. Each patch must be thoroughly tested to ensure it does not inadvertently disrupt system operations.
  2. Change and Configuration Management: Effective patch management must be integrated into the broader change and configuration management process as outlined in ISA/IEC 62443-2-3. This ensures that all changes are systematically tracked and managed.
  3. Resource Intensive: Patching requires significant time and resources, often stretching existing capabilities. Organizations need to allocate adequate resources to manage the patching process effectively.
  4. Infrequent Maintenance Windows: Limited maintenance windows can delay the application of critical patches, increasing the risk of vulnerabilities being exploited. Finding the balance between operational uptime and security updates is crucial.

Addressing the Challenges

Addressing these challenges involves adopting a strategic and holistic approach to patch management. Ensuring systems remain secure while maintaining their operational integrity requires continuous monitoring, proactive patch scheduling and adherence to the ISA/IEC 62443-2-3 guidelines.

Additionally, OT operators can implement solutions with virtual patching capabilities, such as Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS), to provide an extra layer of security. Virtual patching helps to protect systems by detecting and preventing exploits in real time, thereby mitigating risks while waiting for formal patches to be applied.

By following these best practices, organizations can enhance their IACS security and resilience against cyber threats.

Muhammad Musbah
Muhammad Musbah
Muhammad Musbah is an OT cybersecurity expert with Txone Networks.

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