Industry 4.0

IIoT Cybersecurity: Reaping the Benefits of IIoT While Counteracting Cyber Risks

February 2024

Manufacturing firms are adopting innovation as they initiate their IIoT endeavors to maintain competitiveness in today’s market landscape. Yet, amidst the potential of innovation, there is a shadow cast by the looming threat of cyber vulnerabilities.

Manufacturers are increasingly investing in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to drive performance improvement and secure their market position. Nevertheless, the proliferation of cyber threats has surged dramatically, with cyberattacks frequently dominating news headlines.

Whenever new opportunities arise, there are inevitably individuals who seek to exploit them for personal gain. This poses a significant concern for manufacturers, as their industry is in the crosshairs of cybercriminals.

To harness the benefits of IIoT, organizations must prioritize building resilience to cyber risks and adaptability to confront the ever-changing threat landscape.

To support you in this process, we have compiled a list of best practices for risk management intended to help you improve your cybersecurity profile when implementing IIoT technology.


Manufacturers Are Placing a Premium on Security

The World Economic Forum drew some alarm bells by pointing out that “manufacturing has been the most targeted sector by cyberattacks”. IBM estimated that in 2022, over 30% of extortion happened in the manufacturing sector due to the low tolerance for downtime.

Midway through 2023, the SonicWall Cyber Threat Report found that there was a 37% increase in IoT malware, with 77.9 million assaults recorded, compared to 57 million in the same period in 2022. As a domino effect, the risks that ensue are systemic in nature, easily transmissible, and frequently exceed the understanding or authority of an individual entity.

Each producer within the manufacturing ecosystem is also a consumer, and production facilities are dispersed across the globe. Thus, a cyberattack directed at a single organization can generate catastrophic repercussions throughout the entire ecosystem.

High failure probabilities in these settings could expose IIoT resources to cyberattacks, leading to everything from losing confidential information to significant revenue losses.

Compared with conventional networks like IoT, IIoT paradigms are notably more sensitive due to their vast scale, complexity, robustness, and the critical role they play.

Traditional networks comprise IT infrastructure components like servers, workstations, routers, and switches. IIoT, on the other hand, broadens the attack surface by including a variety of industrial devices such as control systems, sensors, actuators, SCADA systems, field devices, and industrial communication protocols.

Strong IIoT security functions as a shield for the intelligent machinery and devices utilized in industries.

In the same way that we protect our homes with locks and alarms, IIoT security consists of a collection of procedures and technologies that safeguard industrial systems and machinery against cyberattacks and other digital risks.

By choosing the right IIoT providers, manufacturers and machine builders can stay ahead of the curve and successfully overcome these cyber risks.


IIoT Cybersecurity Recommendations: Risk Management Strategies for Manufacturers

The reality that we can’t influence every single detail of any given circumstance is a major theme in risk management.

The cyber threat landscape, including both internal and external factors, is dynamic and subject to constant change.

Therefore, keeping an eye on potential dangers may verify assumptions and determine if a risk is becoming more likely to materialize than originally anticipated or whether it is already a major problem.

Below you’ll find a list of risk management best practices to protect your manufacturing organization from IIoT cybersecurity risks.

Integrate a zero-trust approach
Adopting a Zero-Trust Architecture is a strategic move to enhance the security of IIoT systems.

This approach operates on a fundamental principle: trust no one and verify everything – hence, the zero-trust principle.

Access is granted strictly on a need-to-know basis, significantly reducing the risk of unauthorized entries and potential cyber threats.

Conduct risk assessments
Addressing cybersecurity risks in IIoT requires a clear plan, starting with a detailed risk assessment.

A risk assessment helps understand what might go wrong, how likely it is to happen, and the impact if it does happen.

It looks at IIoT devices, sensors, and how IT and OT communicate.After identifying and ranking the risks, steps can be taken to reduce them.

Cultivate a strong cyber culture
After all, the security of IIoT systems depends on staff members actively practicing good security habits.

Organizations need to employ targeted training and awareness programs that educate employees, covering the best practices – such as utilizing strong, distinctive passwords, multi-factor authentication, and so on.

Build structured update processes
As IIoT environments become increasingly complex, the challenge of keeping devices updated has intensified. Where manual updates were once feasible, the vast deployment of devices now makes this impractical.

Companies must prioritize structured update processes, opting for systems that support automatic updates and have a long operational lifetime to ensure devices remain secure throughout their use.

Introduce a Secure Remote Access solution
Secure Remote Access (SRA) solutions facilitate secure connections for remote users, including employees and third-party vendors, to access a company’s infrastructure and systems from outside the corporate network.

Therefore, SRA solutions are essential for remote maintenance, enabling access to devices from anywhere, at any time, while adhering to your organization’s security protocols and compliance policies.

Preserve network segmentation & device management
Separating networks for connected machines from general office or guest networks is essential for enhancing security.

Access to these specialized networks should be tightly controlled, with credentials limited to necessary personnel only, to prevent unauthorized access and potential security breaches.

Implement strong controls
Access control, authentication, and encryption are fundamental for securing network communication channels. It is non-negotiable to guarantee the security of all communications, including data transmission and remote access between IIoT devices and control systems.

Step by step, the network is fortified against unauthorized intrusion, and the integrity of data in transit is preserved.

Assure software maintenance
Despite the challenges in scheduling device or machinery updates and restarts, regular software maintenance is essential. It is also a fundamental defense mechanism against cybersecurity attacks.

Firmware also requires attention, with updates often addressing security vulnerabilities.

Use secure messaging platforms
Adopting secure messaging protocols like MQTT for IIoT communication offers additional security layers.

MQTT is designed to be secure, allowing only subscribed clients to receive messages – and, when combined with Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption, it preserves the confidentiality and integrity of data in transit.

Sustain the viability of cyber policy management
Centralizing visibility and policy management is essential for effective cybersecurity across an organization’s IT network and IoT/OT process network.

A unified monitoring and management platform allows security teams to observe the entire cyber kill chain and swiftly implement controls and policies across IT and OT sites.

Leverage hardware security modules
Incorporating Hardware Security Modules (HSM) into an organization’s security strategy enhances the protection of hardware components. HSMs are specialized devices designed to secure cryptographic keys and sensitive data, preventing unauthorized access and tampering.

Their integration into the security infrastructure reduces the risk of data compromise.


Bonus Tips to Mitigate IIoT Cyber-Risks

Formulate common goals for all teams
To bridge the gap between OT, IT, and SecOps teams, a unified approach to cybersecurity is paramount.

Traditionally, OT teams prioritize reliability and availability for production continuity, while cybersecurity teams focus on safeguarding information confidentiality and data integrity. Despite these differing priorities, common objectives such as maximizing uptime and risk mitigation can serve as a foundation for collaboration.

Choose the right partner
If manufacturing businesses want to keep their industrial networks and OT equipment secure, choosing a reliable cybersecurity partner is imperative. Therefore, one last but crucial piece of advice is to entrust compliant providers that have clear security policies in place.

Your choice should fall on a provider that can prove its commitment to security through certifications based on third-party audits. Some cybersecurity standards are internationally recognized best practices for securing operational technology in automation and control systems. IEC 62443, for example, proves that a provider has implemented a secure-by-design methodology in the product development process, which includes complete security lifecycle management and patch management. So they can successfully identify and respond to vulnerabilities and mitigate their risks.


From Risk to Resilience: Fostering IIoT Cyber Hygiene with a Secure Remote Access Solution

A Secure Remote Access solution is an essential component of a comprehensive IIoT cybersecurity strategy. By centralizing multiple remote access approval processes under one interface, activity authorization, monitoring, and logging actions can be made through a single portal, gifting manufacturers complete control. Such tools are especially useful for large companies that use IIoT systems to safeguard multiple production sites at once, efficiently and comfortably from a single office.

For an IIoT setup to work efficiently and drive improvements in performance and safety, manufacturing organizations need to enable remote access and maintenance to IT and OT equipment for a distributed workforce. And that’s what IIoT remote access solutions like Secomea specialize in.

Book a short call with us to learn more about how Secomea can help you embark on your IIoT journey.


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