The Industrial Internet of Things FEATURE NEWS

How to Spot Holes in IIoT Security & Defend Against Attack

By Special Guest
Megan Ray Nichols, Special Science Correspondent
September 06, 2017

The Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT, provides a platform for greater interconnectivity between production machinery and hardware across the entire manufacturing industry. By collecting, processing and exchanging information quicker than ever before, manufacturers around the world can ramp up their productivity to all-new levels.

But just like every other new breakthrough in the world of IT, the IIoT isn’t without its shortcomings. With 200 billion devices expected to utilize the enhanced connectivity by the year 2020, there are plenty of new opportunities for hackers and other malicious computer users.

Securing Your Network
A recent study from Deloitte highlights some serious flaws in the current state of IIoT adoption within manufacturing. Per their report, 40% of manufacturers were affected by various cyber-attacks and threats within the past year. Of these respondents, 38% saw damages greater than $1 million.

While many networks are focused on protecting its contents from outside attacks, it’s important to consider any internal threats as well. According to Deloitte’s recent survey, four of the 10 most common IT threats in the manufacturing industry stem from a company’s employees. These threats include data phishing and pharming, abuse of IT systems, errors or omissions when inputting data and misusing mobile devices.

Not only do you have to worry about target attacks on your IT network, but user errors and accidents can be just as devastating. A wrong move by an IT worker with British Airways recently made the news for its impact on travelers at Heathrow and Gatwick airports. While it was malicious in intent, the incident proves how a simple blunder can compromise your system.

It’s no longer enough to safeguard your system against random hackers. A full-fledged IT security plan in the 21st century will always include protocol for preventing and dealing with attacks that originate from the inside, too.

Investing in Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is important for any business operating today. The average consumer even benefits from the multitude of antivirus and security programs that are available for their systems. For a manufacturer who is interested in expanding their operations into the world of the IIoT, cybersecurity is critical to ensure a smooth transition and heightened productivity for years to come.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends that manufacturers incorporate network security into the initial design and planning phases of their network. Every single device that is connected to the system, including desktops and workstations, personal laptop computers, production hardware and even mobile phones, will require scrutiny in order to ensure the maximum level of network security.

Bolstering your network’s security might be as easy as using unique user names and passwords for each user. Many companies use a combination of the user’s first and last names, but this makes it easy for hackers to guess. Instead, assign usernames based on random strings of letters and numbers. Although this might make it difficult for individual users to remember their login credentials, it also makes it much harder to crack.

Your network will require some additional security features, too. Using the most recent operating system and software lets you take advantage of the latest updates and upgrades, many of which focus on security. You’ll also want to plan for a service outage or disruption with an in-depth disaster recovery plan.

Understanding the Importance of Endpoint Security
In the broadest terms, endpoint security refers to all of the devices on your system, including user workstations, personal computers, mobile phones and company servers. Simply put, anything that provides a point-of-entry for potential hackers falls under the umbrella of endpoint security.

Because it covers so much, the importance of endpoint security is undeniable. This is especially true with the popularity of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs that are springing up across the manufacturing industry. Although this approach is a great way to provide employees with more freedom and flexibility in the workplace, there are some serious security concerns to consider before adopting this practice on your own.

One of the most common parts of endpoint security involves endpoint encryption. By encrypting the contents of a disk on your end, the data within is effectively sealed off from any unauthorized users. Only those who possess the required decryption keys can access the data, and even these are further controlled and moderated with the use of access levels and different user privileges.

Protecting Your Network Now and in the Future
Due to the rapidly evolving nature of IT in general, it’s difficult to safeguard your network against every possible threat. Many experts agree that there is no such thing as a bulletproof system, but there are some steps you can take to minimize your risk both now and in the comings weeks, months and years. 

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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