Industry 4.0 has become an important talking point over the last couple of years. It’s hard to deny that there have been a lot of incredible innovations in terms of smart factories and connected systems in recent times. But whenever there is progress, there are new problems to solve, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has certainly created its fair share of challenges.
Cyber Physical Systems and Cyber Attacks
The idea of cyber physical systems is at the core of Industry 4.0. Smart factories and supply chains will rely on IP communication in order to manage everything from the tracking of material deliveries to the status of each stage of the production line. Many companies are even investing in smart products, sending usage and fault data back to the company to help improve the performance and stability of its products.
It is important to note, however, that any time a device is connected to the internet, that device is vulnerable to unauthorised access. The IIoT offers enormous potential benefit to companies that use it, but it also presents new attack vectors for malicious elements of society.
Malware and Industry
On the surface, it may appear that simply using a firewall and some antivirus software would be sufficient to protect your systems from malicious intruders. While this may indeed keep systems safe from some of the most common viruses and malware, real-time automation systems have vulnerabilities that the average Windows based desktop machines do not. It is important to use additional protective measures, such as Common Internet File System (CIFS) Integrity Monitoring, to ensure constant protection.
These systems are useful because they do not simply rely upon a combination of virus definitions to protect against known viruses, and heuristics to protect against zero-day viruses. Heuristics are by no means perfect, and CIFS Integrity Monitoring offers an additional layer of protection by flagging unauthorised changes to the file system.
Another area in which the IIoT can be vulnerable to attack concerns firmware in particular. Any system that relies upon software and firmware can be modified. There have been some high profile cases of malicious coders creating firmware (or viruses that target firmware) which either introduce new security holes, or cause devices to crash. It is frustrating and inconvenient when the device that is attacked is a consumer-grade mobile phone or camera. It is potentially crippling to your business when the device being compromised is an integral part of your factory.
Educating your IT team so that they know to properly vet any firmware and driver updates before installing them is a good starting point. Using appropriate restrictions so that only highly privileged users can access the command line is also essential. For best results, some companies go so far as to disable USB ports and other mechanisms for connecting devices to business-critical machines, and heavily restrict network access.
BYOD in Industry
Many modern office-based businesses support the idea of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). This can be a great option for businesses that rely upon remote workers, because BYOD allows each employee to use devices with which they are comfortable, increasing productivity and improving morale. Moreover, this can save considerable capital investment in mobile technology.
However, permitting un-vetted devices to access your network can cause significant security issues. If you already have several applications from different vendors, connecting to multiple devices and communicating across multiple sites, this is a complex enough scenario. Limiting access to pre-approved devices, and configuring your firewall so that technicians and users can access only those devices to which they genuinely need access is essential.
Real Time Encryption
Real-time encryption is available at hardware level and can be valuable in protecting cyber-physical systems from numerous attack vectors. These systems are increasingly being employed as a method of protecting complex production systems.
One important aspect of Industry 4.0 is ‘learning’ systems that will adapt to the environment in which they operate, optimising production at all times.
It is important that these systems are encrypted and that they check the information they receive for tampering. An attack that injects incorrect data into the systems could cause serious damage, slowing down production or overloading parts of the system.
The above are just a few of the potential vulnerabilities and challenges associated with the IIoT. There are many more, and cyber-warfare is likely to become a serious threat over the next few years. Before any company adopts the new generation of cyber physical systems as a part of Industry 4.0, it is important that it fully understands and pre-addresses the associated threats and challenges.
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