Industry 4.0

How Secure Is Industrial IoT?

Roland Kümin
December 7, 2022

Anything with internet connectivity is vulnerable to cyber threats.

With more and more “things” using digital and cloud connectivity, the need for extra security is increasing.

Manufacturing has proven to be a popular target for cybercriminals. A recent report revealed that 61% of manufacturing companies have suffered cyberattacks on their smart factory devices.

Due to the “always connected” nature of IIoT devices and systems, extra care needs to be taken to beef up security and make them resistant to data breaches.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the cybersecurity challenges faced by IIoT and how to overcome them.

IIoT security challenges

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the name given to the systems, devices, and sensors that are being used across the industrial landscape to increase productivity and improve operational efficiency.

IIoT opens up a wide range of benefits for all types of businesses and organizations, from manufacturing to healthcare.

However, without the right protection in place, IIoT systems are wide open to cyberattack.

The most vulnerable points in an IIoT network are:

  • Industrial Control Systems (ICS)
  • Distributed Control Systems (DCS)
  • Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC)
  • Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems
  • Human Machine Interfaces (HMI)

More specifically, IIoT devices and systems are subject to the following types of cyberattack:

  • Device Hijacking – A cyberattacker takes over the control of an IIoT device or sensor. Once the device is compromised, the hacker can use it to launch other attacks such as ransomware, data theft, or industrial sabotage.
  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) – DDoS attacks rely on a hacker, or group of hackers, to flood the target with traffic to disrupt services. It is a tactic used by industrial saboteurs or cyberterrorists to temporarily shut down industrial operations.  
  • Data Siphoning – This type of cyberattack involves intercepting the data being transmitted between IIoT devices, computer systems, and the cloud. In somes cases the data theft may allow attackers access to other IP addresses in your network and cause more damage, such as further data breaches.
  • Spoofing – Also known as ‘man-in-the-middle’ attacks, spoofing involves interrupting communication between two or more systems or devices. For example, the hacker could spoof the data flow between a smart controller and machine on a production line to cause damage and disrupt output.
  • Permanent Denial of Service (PDoS) – A PDoS (sometimes referred to as phlashing) attack involves damaging one or more IIoT devices, rendering them useless to the point of needing replacement or hardware reinstallation. A well publicized malware attack known as BrickerBot was designed to steal hard-coded passwords and run PDoS attacks on manufacturing devices.

Improving the cybersecurity of IIoT

With so many potential cyber threats, industrial manufacturing companies need to take control of IIoT and smart factory cybersecurity. Below are some key action points that will help you to reduce the chances of suffering an industrial cyberattack.

Upgrade legacy equipment

Most manufacturing businesses use one or more machines that are at least a decade old. Proprietary software and dated hardware means that adding IIoT connectivity can leave you vulnerable to cyber threats. Out-of-date equipment can be used as a gateway to hack into the rest of your network and systems. Therefore, you should upgrade legacy equipment and devices to a higher security specification or replace them with new ones.

Apply cybersecurity expertise

To ensure that you have got the most robust cybersecurity measures and protection in place, you should enlist the services of cybersecurity experts. Cybersecurity specialists can identify any vulnerabilities across your entire operation and implement solutions to patch them. Look for cybersecurity teams with specialist IIoT hardware and software knowledge.

Meet industry standards

IIoT products must comply with industry standards such as ISO 27000, NIST CSF, and ENISA. For industrial control systems, IEC62443 sets out the necessary security requirements and guidance.

Implement secure smart manufacturing systems

One of the best ways to ensure that your IIoT devices are fully secured is to implement a smart manufacturing platform that has fully-compliant built-in security.

Our O3 smart manufacturing platform has security layers and encryption at every stage. All components are covered, including sensors, machinery, devices, and data transmission and storage. O3 uses built-in Kudelski IoT technology and similar solutions to make sure that your whole system is covered by top-tier security architecture, protection, and monitoring.

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