What is the industrial internet of things (IIoT) and how to secure it?
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) refers to applying the Internet of Things (IoT) in industrial sectors. IIoT enables industries to manage and control complex manufacturing environments and processes.
IIoT consists of smart devices and sensors that monitor machinery or applications, the networks between the devices, and their connections. These devices collect data related to the machinery or production processes and deliver it to the cloud and/or servers. The smart devices can also be controlled remotely via a connection run over the internet.
IIoT is focused on machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, machine learning, and big data, enabling industries to be more efficient and operate on a much more reliable level.
What is IIoT and how does it work?
IIoT enables industries to optimize their production by offering numerous ways to control the manufacturing processes both remotely and in real-time.
IIoT is a combination of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT). OT refers to the operational processes and industrial control systems (ICSs), such as human-machine interfaces (HMIs), distributed control systems (DCSs), and programmable logic controllers (PLCs).
In short, IIoT combines machines, automation, data, and the internet in a way that makes it possible to gain new insights into manufacturing processes and further enhance the development of production.
The combination of IT and OT not only provides industries automation and optimization but also a better understanding of operational processes. Data gathered from smart devices allows for better decision-making that in turn enhances productivity.
Benefits of IIoT
By adopting IIoT, businesses are able to gather and analyze greater amounts of data at a greater speed. IIoT makes it easier to monitor and manage physical infrastructures in various industrial operations, for example, the manufacturing of heavy machinery, railways, or logistics.
Generally, IIoT plays a big role in bridging the production processes to big data and analytics.
Operations performed by smart devices can be monitored and managed in real-time, regardless of location. For example, an operator or machine manufacturer can collect data from devices that are operating around the world in order to improve their functionality or product development.
The data collected by an industrial company can be gathered, combined, and analyzed in a much shorter time span. This can provide new information and solutions to various productivity or operational issues.
Data can be used to anticipate changes or potential problems in the manufacturing processes. For example, smart sensors can be used to monitor machines and collect data about their malfunctions. This data can be then analyzed and used to predict potential future malfunctions.
Main security threats concerning IIoT adoption
Adopting IIoT undoubtedly revolutionized and will further improve how industrial businesses operate. The challenge is to maintain appropriate levels of security while, at the same time, boosting digital transformation and increasing connectivity.
There are many security threats associated with IIoT, and they are mostly caused by the lack of efficient security measures and systems. Gaps in security lead to an increasing number of security risks threatening the IIoT environment.
These risks are even further enhanced by having the IIoT network connected to the internet (which is almost a must nowadays).
The more automated, remotely operated, and connected the IIoT systems are, the more they are open to security risks, for example:
Malicious activities like hacking, targeted attacks, and data breaches
IIoT businesses that aren't appropriately protected and secured can experience, for example, serious operational disruptions, prolonged downtime, and subsequent monetary loss.
As automation and data analytics are the key elements of IIoT, the need for secure connections and data protection is crucial for further business developments. The need for IIoT cybersecurity is increasing as security threats potentially lead to large-scale events combining cybersecurity and physical security.
Hackers gaining access to IIoT systems threatens not only the business's cybersecurity but can also potentially disrupt physical security measures. For example, hackers gaining control over heavy machinery and related IIoT devices can lead to a data breach as well as physical harm to on-site workers.
How to secure your IIoT networks?
As much as industries and companies are investing in the development and increase in productivity that IIoT offers, they should also invest in their security systems and protocols.
The IIoT landscape is shifting rapidly and like with any new technological advancement, new kinds of security risks are quick to follow. That is why a new kind of (cyber)security approach to IIoT is also needed.
Among the more traditional tools used to secure IloT networks are, for example, VPNs, firewalls, or simple Secure Remote Access (SRA) solutions. However, these tools are not enough, considering the changing landscape.
Having protection that is embedded into the different layers of IIoT systems enables businesses to securely manage and keep their operations running. Embedded security solutions protect all the different layers of the IIoT system: devices, IIoT networks, connections, servers, and the cloud.
IIoT systems and connections are best protected with a comprehensive secure access management solution, like our PrivX, that:
Integrates with your IIoT systems
Manages the entire industrial remote access lifecycle
Supports granular, least-privilege, and just-enough-access (JEA) models that are not available in VPNs/Firewalls
Is prepared for the era of Quantum-Safe Cryptography (QSC) solutions and utilizes QSC algorithms already now