Industry 4.0 and Data Security: An Underappreciated Threat

There seems to be little doubt that the Fourth Industrial Revolution, aka Internet 4.0, will produce massive amounts of data as processes become more monitored, automated, and interconnected. Storing and managing the data will be difficult, but protecting the data is an even greater challenge. Yet, security in the industrial environment does not always get the same level of attention as it does for more frequently targeted enterprises like financial institutions and large retailers.

More Data Sources Equals More Opportunity for Breaches

The very scale of Industry 4.0 should make manufacturing environments an increasingly tempting target. IHS Technology predicts that global revenue from industrial automation equipment will hit $209.4 billion by 2016, maintaining a steady growth pattern that began in 2010.

Meanwhile, a Ponemon Institute Study on Costs of Data Breaches in 2014 reveals that companies estimate an average of 17 malicious codes, 12 sustained probes, and 10 incidents of unauthorized access every month. Many of these are relatively simple to deal with, but it only takes one successful attempt to cripple a facility.

Take Common-Sense Security Precautions

With limited resources and an exploding number of data sources that represent points of entry, how can you assure that your data is safe? The harsh reality is that you can’t. No industrial environment is 100% safe. However, you can take measures to get the most out of your security efforts.

  • Security Through Design – Stick with vendors that make security an integral part of the design process. If you have to buy extra layers of security as separate modules or packages, that’s a red flag. It suggests security measures are slapped on at the end of the process, which makes it more likely that internal systems are vulnerable (especially with more complex automation systems).
  • Limit Access – Role-based access limitations are effective in deflecting threats. If you choose to allow BYOD (bring your own device) operations, make sure that you can exert sufficient control over the device. Do not assume that seemingly friendly sources (vendors, subcontractors, etc.) are benign. Remember, the Target breach initiated inadvertently through a third party vendor.
  • Pattern Recognition – Your security network should be able to detect unusual data patterns and alert the proper personnel in as close to real time as possible. With Just-In-Time (JIT) systems, the speed is even more critical to prevent a breakdown of the entire supply chain.
  • Encryption – Encryption is a simple step that can be ignored in the manufacturing environment simply because engineers assume there is no threat at that stage. Laziness in encryption should not be tolerated.
  • Establish a Security Culture – Security can’t just be applied form the outside. A skilled employee with familiarity with internal systems knows how to inflict the most irreversible damage—and also is most likely to be able to subtly destroy systems from within. In other words, even though the essence of Internet 4.0 is increased automation, the human element must play a major role.Too many manufacturing environments pay lip service to security by establishing rules that are routinely ignored or enforced at lower levels but ignored at higher ones. You can’t marginalize employees and produce a disgruntled and negative security culture. Instead of making security seem heavy-handed and punitive, you must pitch security measures as useful elements that protect employees as well as employers.

Don’t let Industry 4.0 overwhelm your enterprise. Make security an integral part of your industrial automation improvements. Time and money spent upfront will pay off in smoother operation and avoiding the costs of cleaning up after a data security breach.