Cybersecurity in the era of Industrial Digitalization

Cybersecurity in the era of Industrial Digitalization
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by Sanjeev Kapoor 06 Apr 2019

The digitalization of industry and the advent of the fourth industrial revolution are opening new horizons to enterprise competiveness in areas such as manufacturing, logistics, oil & gas and energy production processes. In particular, the deployment and use of cyber physical systems in production plans, enables digital automation, highly flexible production lines, along with quality improvements and efficiencies in the shopfloor. Furthermore, it is expected to lead to unprecedented optimizations in the supply chain, as plants are gradually becoming digitally connected, which facilitates seamless flow of information and enables novel collaborative models of production.  Nevertheless, this new era of digitization comes with a host of security challenges that relate to the cyber security of a plant’s digital elements and to the trustworthiness of the supply chain interactions across plants.


Cybersecurity Challenges in the Digital Industry

As production systems become connected between themselves and with IT systems, they are becoming more vulnerable and susceptible to cybersecurity attacks. It is no accident that during the last couple of years, cybersecurity incidents in factories are on the rise. For example, recent reports underline that approximately 48% of manufacturers have suffered cyber-attacks, while half of these attacked organizations suffered considerable financial and business loss. According to the same reports, manufacturing is currently the fourth-most targeted industry, behind only finance, technology, and business services. The monetary value of these losses for 2016 has been estimated to more than $3B and appears increased during the last two years. As a prominent example, pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck payed a price of more than $310M due to a shutdown in production following a cyber-security attack.

One of the main reasons why manufacturers and other operators of industrial plants are vulnerable to cyberattacks is the fact that they employ old versions of IT systems, which do not have the latest security patches. For example, old fashioned Windows XP systems are commonly found in industrial PCs within production plants. Some of these systems can hardly be updated to resist modern cybersecurity attacks.

From a business perspective, adversaries main target is to steal intellectual property and trade secrets, which fall in the realm of espionage and cyber-crime. This is for example a primary goal of the vast majority of malware attacks against factories, which attempt to steal secrets or proprietary data. In this context, cybersecurity attacks can have severe consequences on the business: Stolen IPR has usually catastrophic effects for a brand. For instance, stolen IPR opens a backdoor for counterfeit products that damage both the manufacturer’s revenues and its reputation.


Guidelines for Fighting Cybercrime

In order to alleviate cyber-threats and to avoid cyber-crime, plant owners have to implement a proper security policy for their production facilities and for their supply chain interactions with other plants.  To this end, the following guidelines should be taken into account:


Overall, as production systems and facilities get connected, the cybersecurity challenges to be addressed increase in number and sophistication. State of the art cyber security solutions when used “out of the box” cannot sufficiently address the challenges of collaborative production environments. Industrial organizations cannot however afford to ignore these security challenges. Rather they have to invest in novel, more integrated and decentralized solutions that address physical and cybersecurity concerns at the same time. Fortunately, state-of-the-art security technologies such as analysis of security related BigData and blockchain based approaches for securing decentralized systems could be two of main pillars of such decentralized solutions.

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