Coming Together for Industrial IoT Security, Skkynet & Siemens Join Forces


As Industrial IoT (IIoT) deployments grow, so does the attack surface, especially as the value of high-end, connected enterprise systems increases. With the exponential growth in attacks, from ransomware to nation state sponsored take downs of critical infrastructure, theft of sensitive data to both accidental and intentional internal threats, enterprises and organizations are taking cyber security more seriously than ever before.

This week, Skkynet, a provider of real-time data communication for industrial systems, and Siemens Mobility GmbH announced a cooperative agreement that fuses highly secure IIoT hardware and software. And while the two companies have clearly invested in integration of their technologies and solutions (both hold substantial patents across their related portfolios), their strategy is to ensure vendor-neutral and protocol-agnostic solutions, based initially on orchestrating Siemens Mobility’s Data Capture Unit (DCU) and Skkynet’s DataHub real-time middleware, to provide secure access to data being generated in factories to corporate IT staff and cloud services.

“Through digitalization, Siemens Mobility is providing transportation operators with intelligent infrastructure and this collaboration will expand our ability to bring secure connectivity to critical systems across industrial sectors,” said Andre Rodenbeck, CEO Mobility Management, Siemens Mobility, in the companies’ joint announcement. “We see value for and need within the Industrial IoT market to mitigate the risk of connectivity to the cloud as well as IT Networks.”

The Data Capture Unit (DCU) from Siemens Mobility is a small, reliable and affordable hardware implementation of data diode technology designed for Industrial Internet connectivity and has been designed to eliminate any direct wired (optical or copper) physical connections.

This allows the DCU to meet all major cybersecurity regulations for critical infrastructure and to operate in rugged environmental conditions (industrial and transportation). Typically located on the edge of the network, the DCU provides boundary protection for the Operations Technology (OT) network, and a secure bridge when connected to the Information Technology (IT) network.

“This collaboration offers industrial users in all sectors—healthcare, energy, oil & gas, and transportation to name a few—a highly secure and cost-effective Internet gateway,” said Paul Thomas, President of Skkynet. “Equally effective for both new and legacy systems, it allows virtually any company to easily make secure connections to the Industrial IoT.”

Leading up to this week’s announcement, The Cogent DataHub from Skkynet was extensively tested by Siemens Mobility and passed the test as a secure and easy-to-configure One-Way Gateway (OWG) for the DCU.

The DataHub software collects and filters data on the OT side, supporting protocols OPC UA, OPC DA, OPC A&E, and Modbus. The data is then sent via the DCU to a second DataHub on the IT side, which pushes it along by TCP or ODBC to IT applications, or by MQTT to Siemens’ IoT platform MindSphere or other cloud services.

 “This agreement couples the best features of both products,” said Harry Forbes, Research Director at ARC Advisory Group. “The Skkynet DataHub software has been designed to enable outbound data flow with no changes to corporate firewalls. Together with the Siemens DCU data diode functionality, the combination provides real-time asset data with security from both hardware and software.”

The DataHub’s secure-by-design architecture is fully compatible with the DCU’s one-way model and allows industrial protocols like OPC UA and others to function seamlessly with the DCU.

Working together, the DCU and DataHub provide a secure OT – IT bridge and vendor-neutral connectivity, supporting main industrial protocols. The DCU ensures higher safety and security levels for the protected assets, while the DataHub enables real-time secure connectivity across a range of protocols on both sides of the connection. Both the hardware and software have been proven in the field for many years and are used in thousands of applications in virtually all industrial sectors.

“As industrial system operators become more aware of cybersecurity issues, the need for truly secure networking becomes ever more critical,” Thomas said. “Our partnership with Siemens gives system owners remote visibility on their plant information without compromising security at either the physical or software layers.  This combination of best-in-class security with real-time remote data opens up new opportunities to leverage industrial data from the sensor to the enterprise.”

Juhi Fadia is an engineer, analyst, researcher and writer covering advanced and emerging technologies.

Edited by Ken Briodagh


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