Keeping One Step Ahead – Consistent Cybersecurity for your Business

Posted on 24 Dec 2020 by The Manufacturer

What’s the best way to provide consistent security, at scale, at all times throughout your business? Nick Burrows explains how the successful path to Industry 4.0 is undoubtedly through cybersecurity.

Industrial manufacturing is increasingly at a tipping point as organisations attempt to embrace Industry 4.0. It’s no longer a maybe – it’s about when and how. And the biggest challenges include how do I change decades of people, process, policies and technology to achieve this change? Manufacturing has never faced such a mountain to climb, and a need to achieve it within a very short period of time to ensure survival. Industrial manufacturing is all about up-time, safety, keeping plants running and people safe. It’s about supply chain integration and, increasingly, it’s about modernising the factory floor with sensors, wireless technologies, analytics and machine learning that reduces costs and keeps manufacturing relevant to today’s world.

Functionality and production efficiency

While functionality and production efficiency are understandably seen as having a higher priority than cybersecurity, no company should attempt the move to Industry 4.0 without focusing on cybersecurity as a vital component in every decision and process. Cyber-attacks increasingly target not just IT systems, but also critical operational technologies (OT) – sensors, devices and software used in manufacturing operations. The convergence of these systems means that attacks against either IT or OT systems (or both) have the potential to ruin production efficiency and cause significant financial impact. A recent report by the Ponemon Institute suggests that the average cost of a successful cyber-attack is more than US$5m. As threats continue to evolve, the industry is being forced to change and manufacturing needs to keep a step ahead.

Cybersecurity – image courtesy of Rutgers
Image Courtesy of Rutgers

How should industrial manufacturers respond?  Several starting points are:

• Operational Technology (OT) and SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) are just as critical as Information Technology (IT) in cybersecurity defences. They are becoming ever more interconnected and ignoring this connection will leave your business exposed. IT/OT and plant personnel need to mutually engage the security team.

• Traditionally air gapped solutions won’t suffice in today’s world. Air gapped is often ‘not air gapped’, the explosion of IoT devices make the systems too large and complex to manage securely.

• Recognise the need for a new approach to your IT architecture – assume all devices are rogue, only allow trusted devices/users/apps access – a ‘zero trust’ network . This is a cybersecurity strategy, it’s all about reducing the attack surface.

• Leverage more automation AI and machine learning to ensure security and intelligence gets built into every level of the manufacturing process – use a platform approach from a single vendor. All of this can enable an organisation to reduce its threat surfaces and to control the impact of cyberwarfare.

• As manufacturers turn to cloud based solutions, how do you keep supply chains intact, how do you keep your integrated third parties secure, how do you meet compliance regulations? All these challenges are made even harder in a cloud based environment.

The IT industry has started to embrace the need to aid manufacturing, to bring IT closer to production and digitise the process, to move beyond ‘the robots’.

The First Industrial Revolution was all about adding steam power to create the factory; this Fourth Industrial Revolution is about digital transformation from the point of the raw material arriving to the finished product being paid for. How you keep all users, applications, data, networks and devices secure in all locations at all times has become a gargantuan headache.

Providing consistent security at scale, from a single vendor, while making use of machine learning and cloud services will enable manufacturing to truly become digitally ready. Palo Alto networks is one of the security organisations leading this push into manufacturing – we make security an enabler rather than a blocker to Industry 4.0.

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Header Image Courtesy Depositphotos