Are the industries prepared for the levels of security needed for digital transformation?

Digital Transformation
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Modern industry is experiencing a great increase on competitiveness through the demand for products with higher quality and traceability. To respond to such levels of quality and production industrial processes demand highest levels of connectivity between components. The digital transformation of the industry has made possible to provide the manufacturing processes of certain levels of intelligence. In this way it has been possible to adapt the production processes to the new needs and to a more efficient resource allocation.

In particular, digital transformation in industry will performance improvements, maximizing asset utilization and minimizing machine downtime through remote monitoring and predictive maintenance, increasing productivity, reducing inventory levels and improving the quality of services and products by leveraging analysis of data produced in real-time. However, the presence of connected Cyber-Physical Systems in industrial environments poses a considerable security challenge since most systems of this type were not designed with cybersecurity in mind [1].

In past years, industry had a closed and isolated access control to its main components, so few elements and personnel had access to actuators, sensors and control elements, which guaranteed the safety. Nowadays, by contrast manufacturing machines, robots and production elements in general are equipped with several smart devices (e.g. sensors and actuators) connected via wired or wireless networks. These components communicate over private Industrial IoT networks using specific protocols, but these do not provide adequate protection against cyber-attacks threats.

In a study presented by the European Union Agency for Networked and Information Security, the experts consider that the most critical assets in terms of cybersecurity in Industry 4.0 communications are Industrial Control Systems (ICS), followed by Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) gateways, and sensors and actuators (see Figure) [2]. An industrial network with insecure connections makes the systems vulnerable to an increasing number of cyberattacks so the data associated with these systems can be accessed by unauthorized persons users.

asset_criticality
Asset criticality described in the asset taxonomy (source: enisa)

On the other hand, the information on industrial processes is not managed only locally. Cloud computing is one of the fundamental pillars of digital transformation. A lot of companies are processing the information from its different factories in cloud platforms. In this way you can have access to the information of each component of the factory remotely. Therefore, Covid-19 pandemic and the need to provide home workers with remote access for monitoring systems, has accelerated this trend. Thus, increasing the vulnerability of the industrial network and lends to a greater urgency to strengthening security.

Some steps need to be taken towards increasing cybersecurity in industrial environments. The main challenges are focused on secure connections with third parties’ components, data encryption in real time, the use keys and preinstalled passwords, among others.

Increased connectivity means increased vulnerability. Therefore, work must be done towards the development and implementation of more secure communication networks. Digital transformation is the step to the next level in the evolution of the industry, but its implementation entails great challenges such as cybersecurity. Due to this, it will aspire to create more intelligent and robust systems but without neglecting security.

In future posts, we will be continue writing about technology and business trends for enterprises. Furthermore, we recommend consulting the following literature to continue your digital transformation journey:

The objective of this blog is to provide a personal vision of how digital transformation trends will be impacting in our daily activities, businesses and lifestyle.

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[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0166361519304427

[2] https://www.enisa.europa.eu/publications/good-practices-for-security-of-iot

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By Alberto Villalonga twitterlinkedin2

Researcher, his research interest includes machine learning, Industry 4.0, Internet of things, and cyber-physical systems.

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