Industrial Automation Cybersecurity

Five Trends Impacting Industrial Automation Cybersecurity and How a Standards-Based Approach is a Solution

After the plant administrators detected ransomware, they immediately halted the Colonial Pipeline’s production on May 7, 2021. This attack became the most dangerous cyberattack in the United States.

This disruptive cyberattack to the critical infrastructure of the U.S to date must serve as the wake-up call for different organizations in advanced manufacturing and critical infrastructure.

Now is the time for businesses that haven’t implemented a standards-based approach to cybersecurity risk inspection and relief. 

While many companies use free cybersecurity tools to ensure the safety of their sensitive business data, an industrial system’s operational technology (OT) can often be neglected. This can easily lead to various vulnerabilities and cyberattacks on businesses, products, and more. 

Luckily, many organizations currently leading the industry are working jointly to cater to this challenge. Fifty companies have developed and used the ISA/IEC 62443 industry standards. 

These industry standards were solely created to offer companies the technical specifications and strategies that can be comprehended and deliver direction on how companies can best defend their institutions at the industrial level. 

Five trends are currently a threat to industrial automation cybersecurity and forcing a standards-based approach. Let’s take a look at them one by one. 

Industrial Internet of Things

For the future of manufacturing, the internet of things and industrial internet of things advancements must remain in focus. 

Unfortunately, with more and more connections, there are more security concerns. While these devices are created to connect to the internet and physical world, security breachers can’t be retained and can also cause various problems physically. 

A recent attack on a water plant in the United States also caused meddling with the level of chemicals in the water supply or the shutdown of this essential organization. 

With such examples right in front of our eyes, we can see how much is at stake for everyone and how important it is to create security benchmarks and execute them internationally through standards-setting organizations rather than just relying on a quality cybersecurity tool that offers a free trial.

OT/IT Junction 

Today, industrial productivity depends on server performance and cloud computing. Unfortunately, cybercriminals can easily target IT-based techniques to attack OT networks. Also, if we look at history, we would see that IT defense is not fruitful in many environments. 

Regulatory measures usually focus more on IT/IoT devices than on the challenges the internet of things ecosystem faces.

This challenge is further complicated because the Industrial Internet of things is in industrial settings, which means they are vulnerable to security risks when a technical susceptibility is being exploited.

Legacy Systems

Legacy systems usually emphasize availability and probity over security, only to make supply chain integrity unattainable because manufacturers no longer build spare parts. 

Cybersecurity is further complicated by the clear difference between the internet of things and the industrial internet of things. 

Due to the unique characteristics of the industrial internet of things, securing the industrial internet of things ecosystem poses challenges related to technical and economic.  

The industrial internet of things has restricted computational capacities and is not developed to sustain sufficient security measures, like state-of-the-art encryption. 

Handling end-point security and traffic research for an increasing number of devices is another technical challenge.

Multi-vendor environments

Without the essential adherence to industry-adopted standards, integration with various vendors gives rise to several risks to the safety of many products. 

Even if we disregard technical challenges, many economic challenges threaten the safety of the industrial internet of things ecosystem. The industrial internet of the things supply chain is complex, making it difficult to safeguard. 

At the same time, it is very difficult to allocate penalties to different stakeholders for vulnerabilities discovered at the different stages of the supply chain. 

Each vendor has its strategy and policies that they adhere to, and most of the vendors are not aligned with security regulations drafted by the ISA/IEC 62443 series of standards.

Skill Gap

There’s a certain age till which the engineers and other technical specialists can productively work. The aging problem has caused the industries to rely more on contract workings that result in difficult practices without standardized competency assessments. 

This becomes more challenging as there aren’t enough engineers or technical specialists that possess cybersecurity skills and industrial internet of things experience to meet the demand of managing those systems. 

In addition, with the increasing significance of standards-based practices for systems and establishments, our existing environment is also inspiring the demand for additional training and workforce maturation.

Final Thoughts

There are five problems – one solution, the ISA/IEC 62443 series of standards. These standards were developed to offer businesses, companies, and organizations the much-needed technical specifications and methods.

These methods or procedures can easily be understood and advise how enterprises can best safeguard their institutions at the industrial layer.  

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