Industry 4.0: Securing a Connected Future

The industrial world we have known in the last 150 years is in the middle of a major shift. A once isolated, self-sufficient haven of Operational Technology (OT) is experiencing Digital Transformation in full force, as equipment and systems are connected to IT and to the internet. This IT-OT convergence and the connected Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are introducing major opportunities – and major vulnerabilities – to industrial organizations.

To put this astronomical wave of change into context, the number of IoT-connected devices in 2015 was 25 billion. This number will double – reaching 50 billion – in 2021. In just 5 years, the prevalence of IoT-connected devices increased exponentially, a trend that will only accelerate leading to connectivity for innumerable new devices. According to SAFEATLAST, the greatest concentration of these new IoT devices will be on the factory floor, with 26.4% of the market. Other key sectors of impact include healthcare, smart cities, connected cars, and transportation.

A Connected Future

Digital Transformation brings with it a host of benefits for organizations, offering new peaks of productivity, efficiency, and innovation. Teams are more effective, more collaborative, and organizations are reaping the rewards.

In a manufacturing context, connecting OT to IT enables a host of opportunities previously unattainable with siloed, unconnected equipment:

  • Improved efficiency via automated, data-driven process optimization
  • Greater productivity thanks to less downtime and predictive maintenance
  • Lowered costs through facilitated remote maintenance & distributed workforces
  • Improved ROI of systems and machines

With these advantages, however, come a number of new vulnerabilities. With each new connection of OT to IT, a new entry point is created, opening up new avenues of risk. The IT-OT convergence is a hotbed of mixed technology (old and new) and exposed endpoints, with a need to provide direct IT access to critical infrastructure.

Legacy systems become newly exposed, unprepared, and unprotected against modern cyber-attacks. The life span of manufacturing equipment and technology can be upwards of 15 to 20 years, or even longer. PCs comfortably integrated into the production line are now decades old and have been safely segregated and, in fact, isolated from IT systems which today exist in a modern web of IT, Cloud and standard-based applications which have life cycles of months rather than decades.

When confronted with the reality of modern technology which has far outpaced these Windows 95-based machines, industrial systems are simply not equipped to defend against today’s sophisticated threats. Not to mention how challenging it can be simple to connect legacy tech to current evolutions of IT and cybersecurity solutions.

As OT infrastructure and manufacturing are increasingly connected through gateways to information systems and Cloud platforms, enabling the collection of billions of real-time data from all over the value chain, the risks of vulnerability are exponential.

So how do you keep industrial infrastructure safe while also enabling digital transformation?

Securing Industry 4.0

Unlike other industries, when a manufacturing company’s systems are threatened, the consequences can be more than just financial losses or consumer data theft, as terrible as those can be. Manufacturing can put physical safety or even human life in danger, with powerful equipment vulnerable to cyberattacks, hacks, or shutdowns. When the stakes are so high, there’s no choice but to find a robust solution to protect businesses and individuals alike.

Cybersecurity is no longer an option; it’s an imperative.

To put things in perspective, consider this: there are more than 7 IoT devices per person in the world. In contrast, there are likely more than 1,000 IoT devices and gateways per manufacturing person. Each of these IoT gateways is connected to tens of CNCs or PLCs, acting as digital twins of the manufacturing floor, thus truly representing a privileged access connection to applications. In other words, the perimeter and number of privileged users accessing highly sensitive IT systems has just exploded.

Industrial organizations need to secure privileged access to their critical infrastructure, ensuring that every access connection – whether on-site or from a remote source – is controlled, traced, and monitored.

Access Management offers comprehensive control and management of connections into systems requiring elevated privileges to enact tight security that doesn’t hamper efficiency:

  • Grant and revoke elevated privileges to access specific assets; Block access to other resources, even within the same network
  • Enable secure remote connections for external maintenance operations
  • Monitor and record all privileged sessions for auditing and incident response
  • Define and automatically terminate unauthorized actions
  • Ensure privileged accounts are wielded by the proper user through Identity Management
  • Apply the Principle of Least Privilege via just-in-time assignment of permissions to access IT infrastructure
  • Protect endpoints (PCs and equipment) via Endpoint Privilege Management to eliminate the risk of local admin rights

These capabilities empower industrial organizations to take advantage of the many opportunities afforded by the convergence of modern IT with traditional OT without fearing a catastrophic security breach.

Security Convergence in Industry 4.0

In the past two decades, cybersecurity has entered the mainstream of critical infrastructure. Two cultures and two worlds that seemed so separate – IT (information technology) and OT (Operation Technology) – with all their insights, objectives, and languages, have now become embedded in one another. And this evolution has brought with it an ever more critical awareness of digital threats to this new Industry 4.0 world.

The digital transformation has driven the need for robust industrial cybersecurity beyond initial perimeter security solutions like anti-virus and firewalls to the thoroughly modern domain of Privileged Access Management, and encompassing Identity Management and Endpoint Security, to secure industrial organizations as they continue forward into the connected future of the industry.