Top five security challenges and considerations for the IIoT
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has presented manufacturers with the opportunity to embrace a range of product efficiencies, from cost savings and remote monitoring, to predictive maintenance and safer working environments. However, the very nature of IIoT can pose a security challenge if these risks are not properly managed, because the potential attack surface is so much greater.
IIoT platforms are constantly growing and evolving, introducing new communication channels, data stores, ports and endpoints over time. If these are not appropriately protected, then owners and operators risk real security vulnerabilities. This can lead to loss of revenue, production downtime, data theft, reputational damage, amongst others - so ensuring an IIoT system is secure is absolutely critical.
Here are five key security areas that need to be considered for IIoT platforms.
- Embrace encryption
Firstly, sensitive data must be encrypted. We’ve seen first-hand a surprising number of instances where sensitive data is hardcoded into software, because this approach provides other systems with easy access to this data. But this leaves data open to errors, compromises performance, and leaves restricted information wide open.
Encrypting data is essential to stop sensitive data from being compromised, and should not be overlooked. End-to-end encryption ensures only those with a decryption key can gain access to information as it crosses over the network.
- Lessons for LAN
For local area networks (LAN), businesses are at risk from a lack of authentication and security in process sensors. Many IIoT systems are not designed and built with optimal security credentials in mind, with compromised data potentially leading to damaged products, regulatory problems, or on-site hazards.
Because these platforms use a diverse range of equipment across a number of sites, it’s important that businesses have a comprehensive understanding of the devices and sensors they have installed across a network, and to ensure these are supported by robust network security and device authentication procedures. Only by doing this will deployments between devices, edge equipment and back-end systems be secure.
- Don’t forget network ports
If incorrectly configured, left open, or established with poor authentication practices, then network ports can be an easy way for cyberattackers to access transmitted data. Ports that are used often are typically at greater risk, and as the scale of your business’ connected devices grows, the requirement to improve protection for data stores and gateways will only grow too.
- Ensure endpoints are secure
While one of the key benefits to IIoT platforms is that many processes are automated, a range of professionals will undoubtedly have to access a system’s user endpoints, whether they be managers, engineers, technicians or another system. To deliver assured protection, these endpoints must be secured with clearly defined user permissions and multi-factor authentication.
Segmentation can also help limit the impact of any cyberattacks. By siloing certain devices off, businesses should follow the principle of least privilege, enhancing security and limiting the extent of a cyberattack should one occur.
- Remember resilience
When planning security measures for your IIoT technology, it’s also crucial that you bear in mind the issue of resilience. This was a critical challenge for A-Safe, a world-leading manufacturer of polymer safety barriers, when it was creating its first IIoT-enabled product, RackEye. RackEye provides warehouse operators with a digital service that can monitor the health of warehouse racking around the clock. Using thousands of sensors at each site, RackEye tracks the ongoing wear and tear that might impact the structural integrity of racking, allowing warehouse operators to make safety assessments.
When considering the resilience required of such a system, David Edgar, Director of Technology at A-Safe, explains: “We needed a platform that wouldn’t stop working at the first sight of failure. We wanted a system that could self-diagnose and recover. So we built in redundancy, to make sure we didn’t lose any messages if there was ever an outage. Edge computing was critical for this, as safety systems can’t rely on the Internet - we had to have the capacity to store data locally.”
For this reason, resilience should be approached as another essential security element for your IIoT project.
And if you’re interested in finding out more about edge computing and the benefits it can deliver, then be sure to check out one of our other recent blog posts here.
Whether security is needed to protect devices, gateway technology, or backend cloud infrastructures, it’s always recommended that you consult with an experienced and knowledgeable expert, who can assess all the security and resilience factors that you need to consider. If you’re planning such a project, then we’d love to hear from you.
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