Securing Connected Industrial Devices

August 23, 2023

Securing connected industrial devices, ensure operational continuity, and protect critical infrastructure with robust cybersecurity measures. IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) is revolutionizing manufacturing by enabling machines and equipment to exchange information continuously, driving down costs while improving energy efficiencies.

However, IIoT also opens itself up to cyber attacks which could wreak havoc and harm. Security must be built into devices from their inception so as to ward off these threats and mitigate their negative impact.

Data Encryption

Data encryption is a technique for transforming information from its original form (plaintext) into an unreadable form (ciphertext), with the goal of protecting information from unauthorised use by making it unreadable to outside parties. While certain encryption algorithms can be broken through computational resources alone, most encryption techniques cannot easily be broken open without incurring substantial computational resource use to do so.

Encryption is an integral component of industrial device security. Not only can encryption protect data as it moves across networks, but it can also protect from malware such as ransomware – an increasingly prevalent form that uses encryption to lock files until an agreed-upon ransom has been paid in return for release of files.

Industrial security experts must ensure IoT devices have appropriate protection features, including data encryption, authentication and credentials management.

Authentication refers to the process of verifying that a person or device is who they say they are, such as by using fingerprint recognition or facial recognition technologies. Verifying identity helps safeguard sensitive data by discouraging hackers from impersonating legitimate users and accessing sensitive information through fake credentials.

Privacy refers to protecting one’s personal data, such as medical records or credit card numbers. When these files are compromised, their health could become endangered.

As many business operations rely on personal data for their operations, losing vital files could have devastating repercussions for its company.

This can have devastating repercussions for a company’s reputation and the value of their products and services, not to mention impacting employees and customers alike.

An effective security strategy combining data encryption, authentication and credential management is the cornerstone of protecting connected industrial devices. A holistic approach helps a company adhere to regulations while safeguarding both customer and employee data.

Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) systems have become an essential part of modern manufacturing processes, improving production and maintenance by connecting devices that collect and analyze data. Unfortunately, however, these systems also present numerous security challenges to companies’ information assets and physical assets. Therefore, it is vital to assess potential threats associated with IoT systems prior to making their development decisions.

Data at Rest Protection

Data at rest refers to any data that has been safely stored on a hard drive, without being transferred or sent out over networks or devices. While generally considered the least vulnerable of the three data states, hackers and malicious insiders could still exploit its vulnerabilities to commit unlawful acts against it.

Organizations often utilize encryption as a method for protecting data at rest. This ensures that only individuals possessing a proper key can gain access to sensitive information, thus preventing unauthorised access, leaks or theft of this sensitive data.

Encryption can help protect data stored on network servers or cloud databases, flash memory devices, RAM memory modules or embedded in devices. Encrypting all customer-private or highly sensitive information to protect it from being easily read by attackers is particularly essential.

Dependent upon the application, this data could include sensor readings, health information or credit card numbers. Manufacturers must ensure their devices have encryption keys installed so hackers cannot gain access to this sensitive information.

Escrypting data that’s transmitted over the network is also critical, particularly with Internet of Things (IoT) devices like medical and smart home systems communicating over it.

Because data at rest doesn’t require active processing, securing it can be easier than actively processed information. Strong encryption and password protection may provide sufficient protection; however, companies should also implement additional measures, such as device and file access controls to achieve total protection of their information assets.

Companies looking to implement data at rest protection should first identify and classify all of the types of data that need protecting, in order to identify a suitable encryption key setup and management plan for every piece.

Additionally, data archiving services can help your organization save resources on redundant storage costs while making compliance with industry regulations such as HIPAA or PCI easier. They also give greater visibility into all data that has been stored within an organization.

Multi-Factor Authentication

Many industrial devices requiring connectivity require extra safeguards to prevent unauthorized access from hackers or any potential risk to functionality or information theft. Multi-factor authentication of IoT systems can provide added peace of mind.

Verifying user identities through multiple means can increase security, prevent attacks, and save businesses money. One popular form of multi-factor authentication is password and PIN combinations; other methods may also exist.

One of the more sophisticated forms of multi-factor authentication is hardware token. Users attach this small device to their computers or mobile devices and enter a code stored on it before being allowed access.

Software-based MFA solutions offer more convenience for users as they don’t require hardware installation. Furthermore, these invisible layers of security provide greater peace of mind; however, there are a few drawbacks associated with them as well.

Software-based MFA systems often require end users to install a client-side certificate themselves, which may prove challenging in practice as some employees may lack the technical know-how needed for this process.

These systems can be costly to deploy and maintain, not to mention that they may not work with all security protocols and technologies.

Hardware tokens can become lost or damaged, presenting users with serious security risks as well as enterprises.

MFA solutions of today incorporate adaptive authentication methods that take context and behavior into account when authenticating users, including location, time of day, device used, IP address, etc.

These factors may include behavioral biometrics like fingerprint scanning or facial recognition, or physical security measures like keypads on laptops and thumbprint sensors on smartphones. Adaptive MFA helps companies better understand their user’s needs while designing more user-friendly processes.

Multi-factor authentication is an essential element of protecting connected industrial devices from cyber threats such as phishing, social engineering, key logging and brute force attacks. Furthermore, it can help combat malware-laden websites as well as any potential online threats such as ransomware.

Credential Management

Credential management systems (CMSs), also known as Credential Repository Managers (CRRMs), enable organizations to effectively administer user credentials across an entire network. A CMS can ensure passwords are only being used by authorized individuals, increase confidentiality and mitigate risks from insider threats; however, selecting an effective CMS is crucial to effective operations.

Credentials are an integral component of connected industrial devices, providing access to various applications and resources. Organizations must be able to manage credentials throughout their life cycle – from creation and issuance through to cancellation or replacement.

Credential management solutions should cover the full lifecycle of credentials, from verifying individual identities to tracking any changes over time to ensure any credential alterations such as device or password lost access or an employee leaving can be managed efficiently and securely.

Credential creation should include issuing them to individuals who require them, with access managed via single authentication such as WorkforceID(tm) Credential Manager enabling complete control over its entire lifecycle.

Organizations operating within industries requiring maximum security might mandate that employees go through an authentication process before being given any credentials.

Credential management lifecycle tools should enable users to restrict credentials by processes and resources, providing valuable protection from compromised accounts or devices. Restrictions should depend on factors like what type of security role and access will be granted as well as who will access and use their credential.

Credential management tools must also include functionality for hiding and rotating passwords to decrease theft risks, especially for control systems which may be shared among multiple people and require regular changes in order to remain effective.

Ammar Fakhruddin

ABOUT AUTHOR

Ammar brings in 18 years of experience in strategic solutions and product development in Public Sector, Oil & Gas and Healthcare organizations. He loves solving complex real world business and data problems by bringing in leading-edge solutions that are cost effective, improve customer and employee experience. At Propelex he focuses on helping businesses achieve digital excellence using Smart Data & Cybersecurity solutions.


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