The arrival of the IoT on the market was a watershed moment in terms of how we relate to technology. It revolutionized everything, from smart homes to connected cars, to systems for smart cities, 5G innovations and, of course, industrial advancements made with the industrial internet of things (IIoT).
The IoT has proven to be a major asset, and it’s already here. However, its effects will intensify in the near future because its possibilities are incredibly vast.
According to Statista, there will be more than 75 billion connected devices in the world by 2025. This will entail huge progress in all sectors, as we’re already seeing, because as data and people have become increasingly connected, IoT technology has become a collaboration and decision-making tool in a world in which physical and digital environments tend to converge.
Backing smart manufacturing with security.
Industry is not immune to this phenomenon and has benefited from increased data capture and gathering of information on the environment, leading to efficiency improvements, better product traceability and new developments, real-time monitoring and visibility, collaborative robotics, potential to enable predictive maintenance, cost optimization, fewer errors and reduced machinery down time, greater speed and agility, etc. and these are just a few of the advantages and opportunities offered by IIoT.
However, as with all new technology, the IoT also has its disadvantages and poses significant challenges that must be managed properly. Otherwise, you’ll be faced with a serious problem if you want a multitude of connected devices to function and operate effectively in compliance with the relevant cybersecurity requirements, an aspect that cannot be overlooked.
In the era of Industry 4.0, manufacturers are replacing old plant equipment with new "smart" models that allow for safer, more efficient production. New IIoT business technology and smart production lines make it possible for manufacturers to stay competitive.
This technology has proven advantages, but organizations must ensure that they bear in mind the potential security vulnerabilities when they implement it on their networks. As facilities are modernized and as they establish sophisticated operational technology (OT) networks, the risk of cyberattack also increases. That is why having security strategies from the start and using solutions made by trustworthy companies with a proven track record on the market is so important.
Remember that, like any other technology, the IIoT entails risks, but this cannot and – should not – hinder modernization. The only thing to remember is that as IIoT devices are implemented, connected to critical infrastructures, become part of major operational tasks and even store confidential data, protection measures must also be taken. It’s simply the logical thing to do.
Smart manufacturing systems, it’s all connected
Many vectors now are exposed to threats. For instance, MES systems are one of the most sensitive components of smart manufacturing systems, as they act as a reliable bridge between the production plant and the rest of the corporate network. These highly customizable systems are based on a complex automation logic that, if altered, can damage the final product.
Another example is industrial collaborative robots, connected manufacturing machinery that interacts with the environment and is able to carry out complex tasks at high speeds. Cybercriminals can attack them by taking advantage of the vulnerabilities in the communication systems that control them.
Similarly, customizable IIoT devices that allow engineers to run custom automation or human–machine interfaces (HMI) are another source of vulnerabilities as indicated by the ZDI report, and we should not fail to mention the risks posed by shadow IT, a seemingly harmless practice of using hardware or software not approved by the organization’s IT department.
This is all just a small sample of the ways cybercriminals can hack into a factory’s systems for the purposes of industrial cyber espionage, interrupting production or manufacturing defective items with the all the significant financial and reputation damage entailed for Industry 4.0 companies. The answer to this problem is having a specific IoT/IIoT security plan designed to eradicate sophisticated and specific threats.
Industry 4.0 is based on a technological foundation in which everything is connected. IoT/IIoT technologies are being quickly incorporated into the dynamic of many production plants, transforming the manufacturing sector, making companies more competitive and profitable, and guiding them to becoming smart factories, but the risk involved is undeniable.
In order to safely leverage the potential of the IoT/IIoT, organizations must realize that security is key and find solutions that include it by design right from the very first innovation stage, as Lantek does.
That way they’ll ensure that the IoT/IIoT offers more benefits than risks. The main reason why the adoption of this technology continues to grow in all sectors is that devices connected to the network improve efficiency and help focus limited resources where they are needed most. In manufacturing environments, the IoT allows new and interesting products and raw materials to be produced at affordable prices. This technology has proven advantages, but organizations must ensure that they have considered all the potential security vulnerabilities when implementing it on their networks.