Securing collaboration in Industry 4.0

Posted on 21 Nov 2023 by The Manufacturer

The likes of artificial intelligence, automation, digitisation, and IoT carry huge benefits for the industrial sectors.

Industry 4.0 brings with it promises of increased operational efficiency through automation and real-time data analysis, reduced downtime and maintenance costs through predictive maintenance, improved product quality, enhanced supply chain management, and greater customisation of products to meet customer demands.

The only way this can be achieved is through collaboration – both internally and across organisations. However, with that comes risks – and the need to balance accessibility with security. In this article we’ll be looking at how this equilibrium can be achieved through Identity and Access Management (IAM) processes.

Why collaboration is needed

Nothing innovative happens in silo, and collaboration will be at the very heart of any future-ready industry. It underpins risk management, where organisations regularly exchange crucial information and insights to combat emerging threats, especially in the wake of cyber attacks. This collaborative approach equips the sector with a deep understanding of vulnerabilities, enabling swift risk mitigation.

Simultaneously, collaboration nurtures innovation – by exchanging resources and knowledge, fresh perspectives can be cultivated. The rapidly changing technological landscape requires a workforce with ever-changing skills sets. When organisations collaborate, they can improve training and development opportunities for individuals, while also facilitating the exchange of skills.

Whilst collaboration is essential to industry 4.0, it doesn’t come without risk. With increased collaboration, especially in an industry filled with complex ecosystems of new technologies, comes a risk of overexposure. With this increased exposure, businesses are more likely to be a target of a cyberattack. However, this can be prevented thanks to IAM tools.

Why IAM?

In simple terms, IAM ensures smooth operations by controlling resource access and defining access levels. This is achieved through security measures like multi-factor authentication (MFA), advanced biometrics (e.g., facial recognition), and robust password policies.

Of course, the significance of IAM goes beyond operational efficiency. It is crucial for industries like manufacturing, where the need to protect sensitive intellectual property, production data, and supply chain information is paramount. IAM plays a pivotal role in safeguarding these assets by regulating who can access them and under what conditions.

In addition to data protection, compliance is another key concern for manufacturers. IAM systems assist in demonstrating adherence to privacy and security laws, ensuring that organisations remain in line with regulatory requirements. This becomes especially important in the event of data breaches or cyberattacks, as IAM systems provide an audit trail showcasing who accessed specific data and systems and when.

While maintaining stringent security measures is essential, IAM systems can also enhance user experience. For manufacturers, this means streamlining operations by implementing a Single Sign-on Experience (SSO). With SSO, users can access the necessary data and systems without the burden of managing multiple complex passwords, making their tasks more efficient and less prone to human error – which according to our Data Threat Report, remains the number one cause of data breaches.

Key pillars of an effective IAM strategy

To delve a bit deeper, here are some of the best ways organisations can utilise IAMs to their advantage and enhance their security protocols:

1) Zero Trust

The paradigm shift from implicit trust to the concept of ‘Zero Trust’ in security is fundamental. It drastically reduces the chances of inadvertently granting unauthorized access to valuable data or systems. ‘Zero Trust’ entails a continuous process of identity verification before access is granted, moving away from reliance on system memory.

2) Principle of Least Privilege (PoLP)

In alignment with the ‘Zero Trust’ philosophy, the Principle of Least Privilege ensures that users are kept away from unauthorised areas as much as possible. At the same time, it allows users to work with minimal disruption. The goal is to provide access only to the absolute essentials required for their tasks.

3) Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

MFA stands as one of the most effective security methods, ensuring that only authorised users can access devices, systems, and data. Typically, MFA involves a multi-step verification process that includes elements like biometrics, confirmation texts, and security questions.

However, it’s crucial to maintain a balanced approach to security. Even while adopting these IAM strategies, organisations must conduct internal reviews of password policies to ensure the security of all devices, systems, and data. Regularly changing and updating passwords is key to their resilience against cyber attacks.

Despite the need for stringent security measures, the human inclination for convenience and efficiency cannot be overlooked. A balanced approach is essential, and IAM can contribute to a seamless user experience by incorporating user-friendly elements like biometrics within the security framework. This ensures that while security remains robust, user interactions are optimised.

To conclude…

The transformative potential of Industry 4.0, driven by technologies like AI, automation, digitisation, and IoT, promises enhanced operational efficiency, reduced downtime, and improved product quality. Collaboration stands as the linchpin of this industry evolution, fostering innovation, risk management, and a dynamic workforce.

However, this collaborative landscape introduces security challenges, necessitating the delicate equilibrium between accessibility and protection. Identity and Access Management (IAM) emerges as the critical solution, ensuring smooth operations, data protection, and compliance. In navigating the ever-changing landscape of Industry 4.0, IAM serves as the sentinel, safeguarding progress and productivity without compromising security.

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About the author

Simon McNally is an Identity and Access Management expert at Thales. Simon has over thirty years’ experience working within the IT industry, with 26 years focused on network management and security solutions, including security and auditing technologies, firewalling products, identity and access management, and authentication technologies both on premise and via the cloud.