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Four Security Challenges in the Way of Industrial IoT Integration

These days, Internet of Things (IoT) concept gains ground thanks to the rise of wearables and machine learning technologies. The IoT concept is ready to go beyond consumer-related aspects as industries start embracing the concept for enhancing productivity and increasing efficiency through Industrial IoT.

When it comes to access a huge pile of industrial data anywhere, Industrial IoT or IIoT technology offers an ultimate solution. The technology enables companies to improve business processes with direct data insights while decreasing service costs and increasing uptime with a machine-to-machine (M2M) communication. However, industrial IoT offers many opportunities; an access to industrial systems and critical corporate data have numerous inherent risks. The biggest challenge is to secure company systems from any probable cyber attack while maintaining the subtle balance between corporate operations and traditional IT security approaches.

Today, any company has two different technology organizations: the first one is obviously Information Technology (IT) and the second one is Operations Technology (OT) that consists of anything beyond manufacturing including utilities, switching, and other capital equipment. Now the problem is both the organizations have the deep cultural divide, and one organization does not want any member of other organization. It is highly necessary to eliminate the cultural differences between the IT and OT to build a safe, secure, and trusted industrial Internet.

Entrepreneurs want operational efficiency to save costs while leveraging the benefits of big data and artificial intelligence (AI).

Here are the challenges for Industrial IoT security providers:

  1. Reduction in cost and complexity of Industrial IoT

It takes hours, weeks, or months to create customized, secure connections with different scalability. Complex tunnels are necessary to be created inside other tunnels for having access to isolated industrial networks. Only the most expensive certified security experts can perform this task into traditional VPNs (Virtual Private Networks).

On the other hand, industrial customers want to save costs, and therefore, the service providers have to offer a cost-effective and secure remote access. Also, the outside networking solutions should be less complex to take less setup time. 

  1. Reduction in intrusion points

    Industrial IoT (IIOT)

Industrial systems become more vulnerable to any possible threats when they are open for outside access, and there is no escape from any cyber attack. Therefore, the IIoT service providers need to reduce the points of intrusion for minimizing any risks on the entire customer network. Limited access based on the requirements and designation can also help reducing intrusion points. Highly trained and expensive network security-related professionals can create complex ACLs (Access Control Lists) to restrict network access down to the employee’s device or particular data.

Traditional VPN tunnels offer wide-open access to entire networks instead of a particular portion of the network. The fact is VPN can offer full access from one network to another while protecting their parts. But these days, as the threat looms large for the cyber attack on the connecting points of two networks, and traditional VPN cannot provide the security at a junction or connecting points.

Also, no network can remain sure for whether or not some system on the other side is already compromised. Now, comes the difference between IT and OT: IT department believes in reliability while the OT department emphasis on resilience, a step ahead of reliability. When a hacking attempt occurs, OT tends to keep a distance from IT, but otherwise, OT always seeks support from an IT department to creating the right security environment.

The real challenge for the service providers is to create limited access in the specific protocol (other than IP) and a secure tunnel in minutes. A simple interface can help providers attain this goal. 

  1. Third-party remote access

Let’s begin with an interesting fact: Even a temporary third-party access in traditional VPN tunnels offers remote access to any critical operations network, and no one can close it!

A third-party remote access is always wide open, and you cannot switch it off or on as per wish. Even after spending a lot of money in creating VPN tunnels, there is no guarantee of safety as the network is open in front of the web world.

The network security keys can be used to enhance security through preventing any bad person to get access to the network. There is a great need for a technology that allows third-party remote access through the tunnels that we can readily switch off and on with a single click. But, right now, the tunnel into the network always remains open.

 Utilizing the cloud for enhancing data safety

At times, entrepreneurs contact third-party VPN service providers and the cloud access companies to get rid of the complexities of remote access while ensuring data security. But, it is not a solution of the problem; it is just passing it to others.

When you utilize the cloud, the permanently opened tunnels get the place in someone else’ cloud or say, computers. Even if the cloud service providers claim that clouds are secure, they are not 100 percent hack-proof. Cloud VPN network has a back door for access to organizations’ sensitive data and control systems. The DragonFly attack was designed to target cloud VPN services in a well-organized and sophisticated manner. The attack targeted many important organizations in the US, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Germany, and Poland.

In other words, VPN security providers have to work more in the direction of enhancing data security on the cloud platform as well.

 Conclusion

When it comes to Industrial IoT,  both IT and OT departments have to work in collaboration to ensure critical data security for the enterprises. Though the challenges are tough, we can certainly bank on technological advancements for finding solutions to secure VPN networks from growing cyber threats. It is important to work on improving both resilience and reliability of IT systems to avoid any damage due to compromised networks.

Furthermore, the cultural differences between OT and IT are necessary to be addressed to strengthen IT’s capability of minimizing the risks of data theft. The philosophy of helping networking and industrial hardware providers can effectively meet the requirements of Industrial IoT and industrial customers.