With technological advancements, many new technologies and devices have made their way into the industrial space. This has resulted in the emergence of digital twins – the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Although technologies have yielded many benefits and streamlined processes, it has become important for businesses to consider potential risks and attack vectors associated with it.
While the emergence of IIoT technologies has come with its share of advantages, risks are very much there, prime among them pertains to cybersecurity. It has, thus, become essential for organizations to address the technical challenges discovered in relevant spaces and at the same time, improve processes and reduce costs.
As the organizational cloud area widens and the number of connected users per device increases, the chances of the system falling prey to data breaches also increases.
Need to consider IIoT security
A study by Gartner, a global research and advisory firm, said that by 2025, cyber attackers will have weaponized operational technology environments to harm or kill humans successfully. Further, the worldwide government IoT endpoint electronics and communications market will total USD 21.3 billion in 2022. This is a 22 per cent increase from a forecasted total of USD 17.5 billion in 2021.
According to a cybersecurity company, Trend Micro was hacked into a series of industrial robots from different vendors. A study also revealed that the software on which industrial robots run are usually outdated operating systems with weak authentication systems, and tens of thousands of industrial devices residing on public IP addresses. It is the type of application that determines how a breach in an industrial IoT environment can result in risks. It includes lots of important information, which is critical for businesses to function.
Benefits of IIoT
The following benefits can help create more impact and let organizations expand their area of undeniable contributions –
- Optimized processes: IIoT will make it convenient for a digitally connected business to carry out procedures. Facility engineers will be able to automate commands, resulting in streamled operations.
- Cost reduction: IIoT devices that have inbuilt sensors help monitor machines in real-time. They can help detect problems and take necessary actions quickly. Such activities indirectly ensure optimal functionality of devices, thus reducing the need for repairs and possible downtime.
- Efficient inventory management: With the help of IIoT, industries can perform tasks like inventory tracking and monitoring systems swiftly. These systems provide detail on every item available, report work-in-progress, and predict accurate output delivery.
But as it is said, every coin has two sides. On the same line, IIoT has some drawbacks, too.
In the last few years, the prime focus for industrial facilities has been to implement better security services. However, most attacks are not much publicized compared to incidents that affect consumers and corporations. But they have raised awareness and made stakeholders realize how vital IIoT security is.
Cybersecurity risks associated with IIoT
Such actions occur when a malicious actor tries to take charge of an IoT endpoint device or sensor, which may take place without the owner’s consent. The range of hijacking depends on how strong the endpoint device is at the ground level.
If, by any chance, ransomware or malware compromises endpoints or IIoT sensors, the complete control of the activity falls in the hands of the attackers. It becomes a point of concern if that endpoint or device is equipped with automated functionality or controls manufacturing or manages the function of an internet-connected product in the field.
This happens when industrial IoT devices are not updated regularly. It can also be an entry point for attackers to gain access to a centralized network. Implementing a hardware-based VPN solution is one way to provide security for IoT devices, the data, or the information it transmits.
- Denial of service attacks
Another point of concern with industrial IoT devices is the potential of a distributed denial-of-service attack in all the devices present in the network.
In such a situation, cybercriminals use the device itself, or even the centralized network, as a medium to enter the network and then bombard the endpoint devices to bring congestion so that they cannot complete the task they were assigned to do.
Organizations that rely on devices for production to continue must be prepared to handle the endpoints’ blockage situations. A better solution can be to implement a security solution that can completely obfuscate the device from the outside world and all other networks it is connected to for further communication.
- Device theft
This is one of the common security concerns where physical devices present in the field are more prone to theft. This risk holds the potential to snowball if the information stored in the endpoint device is crucial. Matters may worsen if the information falls into the wrong hands.
IoT deployments can, however, be protected from this kind of risk by ensuring that not much data is stored in the endpoint devices. The best solution can be to use a network or cloud-based infrastructure to keep crucial information.
- Man-in-the-middle or device “spoofing”
Such a risk involves the chances of an attacker pushing himself between the IIoT endpoint device and the cloud or centralized network, where they act as the device sending data.
Another major concern is: If the traffic comes from an endpoint device, the chances are that it will be used to change product information, or it may entirely take charge of the product in the field.
In such a situation, using a hardware-based security solution to build a sense of trust will allow the central network to precisely know whether the information is being sent from a real endpoint device or not.
While embarking on an industrial IoT initiative, it is important to consider security risks so as to protect an organization against vulnerable attacks. It is essential to deploy more robust IIoT technologies and devices faster to secure organizations against cyber-related risks.
These risks can impact operational productivity and efficiency, financial stability, and even the company’s reputation. Many organizations are already in the early stages of adopting practices and implementing protective technologies to minimize these risks.
With time, IIoT will experience exponential growth. It is, thus, vital to make IIoT security a top priority. Only then can organizations truly leverage their burgeoning power for critical real-world use cases.
What needs more attention is the increase in ROI (Return on Investment) in lieu of the IIoT investment.
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