Secure Your Industrial Network with These 4 Tips


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Thursday, August 12, 2021

Industrial Internet of Things devices are now commonplace in many firms. But what will you have to do to ensure these endpoints are secure?

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Secure Your Industrial Network with These 4 Tips
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It's said that every business is now a digital business, and this means they all need to be concerned about cybersecurity. This is especially the case for firms operating in the industrial sector, which are likely to be working in particularly sensitive environments where any security issues or other disruptions would be highly damaging.

Whether it’s manufacturing facilities, utilities firms, power stations, logistics companies or other industrial activities, these companies depend more heavily than ever on smart digital services to reduce costs, boost efficiency and deliver the best results.

The rise of the Industrial Internet of Things

One of the biggest tech trends of recent years has been the Internet of Things (IoT), and these devices are especially prevalent in industrial sectors. According to research from Accenture, the specialist Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) market could add $14.2 trillion to global GDP by 2030.

Meanwhile, 58% of manufacturers say IoT is required to digitally transform their operations, with those in sectors including energy, aviation and utilities the most reliant on this technology.

As a result, both wired and wireless sensors are now commonplace in many industrial applications to monitor operations, automatically make adjustments and provide a greater level of business intelligence on a firm's activities.

Greater connectivity equals greater risk

However, with this improved connectivity comes more opportunities for hackers. The more endpoints within your industrial network, the more potential holes there will be in your defenses. These risks are compounded by the fact that, in many cases, the sensors themselves and the connections they use to share data aren’t inherently secure.

In the past, industrial networks may not have been considered a major security issue as they were typically self-contained and isolated, but this is no longer the case. The current generation of IIoT devices depend on wider connectivity, whether this is to share data or receive updates, so this will always open up backdoors into your network that hackers can exploit.

4 tips to keep your IIoT under control

Therefore, paying close attention to the security of your IIoT environment is vital, no matter how large or small your firm is. To do this, there are four key areas you should be focusing on.

1.  Have the right hardware

Step one must be to ensure the IIoT devices themselves are secure and meet the requirements of both the operational technology (OT) and IT departments.

This may not be as easy as it seems. IoT devices may often struggle with poor intrinsic security, with common problems including a lack of encryption and weak default passwords that can’t be changed. This often comes down to a lack of standardization in what is still a relatively new industry. Therefore, it's essential both IT and OT teams work closely together to identify hardware that meets both their requirements - that is to say they’re secure, reliable, safe to use and meet all industry protocols.

2.  Know your network

It's also essential to have complete visibility into your IIoT network - and as a business expands this can become increasingly difficult. Therefore, it's vital that you keep a complete inventory of every device that's connected to your network and monitor their activity.

For example, it's essential to ensure new devices are configured securely and consistently, and there are tools available that can help ensure this is the case. It also pays to have complete real-time monitoring and logging solutions that can help identify any vulnerabilities and take action before it leads to a security breach.

Tools that can integrate specialist industrial applications with existing security information and event management (SIEM) systems may be highly useful in managing this.

3.  Improve your software

SIEM tools are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to securing your IIoT environment. Software tools to assist with device control and security are a vital part of any firm's strategy, helping to ensure the devices themselves are safe to use.

For example, Cisco highlights the use of digitally signed images and secure boot processes as key components of this. These features ensure that any software being loaded hasn’t been tampered with.

4.  Secure your network

Finally, it's important to have a defense in depth strategy that doesn’t just focus on the devices and related software itself. The same principles of network-wide security apply just as much to IIoT environments as any other part of your network. This means the use of tools such as intrusion prevention and detection systems that can monitor your network data for malicious activity, for example.

While these tools are commonly used for more general office networks, there are many that are designed specifically for industrial control systems.

You should also be working to ensure remote access is secure. Again, it will be possible to deploy industry-focused versions of key networking tools such as VPNs to allow for the remote monitoring, maintenance or updating of IIoT devices, in much the same way consumer VPNs can provide home workers with access to their corporate network.

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