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Excelling at Edge Security: Best Practices Whitepaper released by IIC

By Cynthia S. Artin March 14, 2018

Of all the challenges associated with the never-ending variations and themes on the IoT and IIoT, there is arguably no more vexing a challenge than locking down endpoint security.

There are dozens, even hundreds of different approaches, including layered approaches for end-to-end solutions that harvest data from the edge, and we could virtually sit around debating the pros and cons of each for years. Case in fact, that’s what we have been doing, and with nasty new variants surfacing (for example the latest malware researchers dubbed OMG, which can kill processes and telnet brute-force logins to attack), it’s time now to settle down.

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) is doing their best to simplify guidance for endpoint security by publishing a new Endpoint Security Best Practices white paper, which is delightfully concise as reference papers go.

Designed to help equipment manufacturers, critical infrastructure operators, integrators and others implement the countermeasures and controls they need to ensure the safety, security and reliability of IoT endpoint devices, the report, co-written by senior members of the IIC’s technical committee, covers a broad range of edge devices including sensors, actuators, pumps, flow meters, controllers and drives in industrial systems, embedded medical devices, electronic control units vehicle controls systems, as well as communications infrastructure and gateways.

“The number of attacks on industrial endpoints has grown rapidly in the last few years and has severe effects. Unreliable equipment can cause safety problems, customer dissatisfaction, liability and reduced profits,” said Steve Hanna, IIC white paper co-author, and Senior Principal, Infineon Technologies, in the IIC’s news release.

Hanna also explained the intense research, discussion and distillation process that lead to a slim 13-page document. “As we reviewed a large stack of industrial cybersecurity standards and guidance documents from international standards bodies and national authorities, we looked for recommendations that are widely agreed. We found many common elements, from broad topics like risk analysis to specific countermeasures regarding endpoint authentication. These elements are the best practices and they’re tied back to the foundational documents with footnotes so readers can find more details as they wish.”

Specifically, standards, industrial guidance and compliance frameworks, including IEC 62443, NIST SP 800-53, the IIC IISF and more are part of the DNA of this useful – free – publication.

Equipment manufacturers, industrial operators and integrators can use the Endpoint Security Best Practices document to understand how countermeasures or controls can be applied to achieve a particular security level (basic, enhanced, or critical) when building or upgrading industrial IoT endpoint systems, which they can determine through risk modeling and threat analysis.

“By describing best practices for implementing industrial security that are appropriate for agreed-upon security levels, we’re empowering industrial operators and integrators to define and request the security they need in their endpoint devices,” said Dean Weber, IIC white paper co-author, and CTO, Mocana. “Integrators can build systems that meet customer security needs, and equipment manufacturers can build products that provide essential security features efficiently.”

While the white paper is primarily targeted at improving the security of new endpoints, the concepts can be used with legacy endpoints by employing gateways, network security, and security monitoring.

“Manufacturers will benefit by using this guidance to build stronger security into their industrial control and instrumentation equipment; however, they can also use this guidance to upgrade devices in the field,” said Weber. “While some legacy equipment simply cannot be upgraded, many devices with sufficient communications and processing capabilities can certainly be upgraded with software that meets these security guidelines.”

The full Endpoint Security Best Practices white paper and a list of IIC members who contributed can be found on the IIC website.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

Contributing Writer

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