IoT technologies have brought huge benefits for manufacturing, transport, oil and gas, healthcare, AgroTech, energy, and utilities sectors. These industries have complex infrastructures, bringing together a great number of interconnected devices, sensors, smart meters, industrial robots and software used for communication and data transmission. Industrial IoT systems contain important sensitive information, and therefore pose as tempting targets for hackers. Continue reading this article to learn more about IIoT vulnerabilities and ways to eliminate them.
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IIoT Security Challenges and Expectations
Smart devices should regularly undergo comprehensive testing procedures to ensure that they function properly and do not pose any risks to endpoint security. Timely support and maintenance services are of utmost importance if we want to achieve a high level of protection against cyber attackers.
A common network simultaneously connects a number of devices. This makes it difficult to identify the exact source of a threat. It is good practice to create special threat identification modules that help recognize vulnerable points in both the software and the hardware of the ecosystem.
The importance of hardware integration is sometimes overlooked. However, to ensure smooth performance of the ecosystem, this is an important factor to consider. Proper hardware configuration helps make the infrastructure secure and prevent illegal access by attackers trying to change the default configuration, steal data and disrupt the system.
To ensure the privacy of users and provide safe storage of their personal details, software developers implement encrypted data. To comply with the established data encryption regulations, cryptography protocols are implemented. These methods help protect sensitive information and make all interactions with the infrastructure secure.
IIoT Device Cyber Vulnerabilities
Thanks to smart devices, there are ample opportunities to share and exchange data remotely. At the same time, these technologies are vulnerable to hackers as they are relatively easily compromised. Earlier, there were not many problems with security at a technical level, so the majority of industries and manufacturers didn’t have special standardized guidelines and protocols on how to deal with them.
Organizations solved security issues ad hoc, turned to third-party security service providers for help, used unreliable legacy equipment, or counted on the client’s internal security alone. These measures have proven insufficient for proper protection because of the weak points of a typical industrial IoT infrastructure.
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Below we will consider what features make the IIoT system vulnerable.
- The devices are always turned on, so they are always visible to hackers.
- Outdated common code libraries are used.
- Necessary security features are often absent.
- Passwords are not strong enough.
- Authentication processes are not elaborated properly.
- There are no established security protocols.
- The firmware is obsolete.
The main reason why smart devices are such attractive targets is their connection to internal services with important information. Industries often do not segment their IoT network, as this makes it easier to manage than a complex segmented one. Nevertheless, this approach can harm information security. When attackers hack a single device in the unsegmented network, it is easy for them to wreak havoc on the entire system.
In addition, if one small device is attacked, it can potentially disrupt the performance of all the connected devices and systems of other organizations. Thus, the harm is often not limited to just one organization, but can also affect the security of its partners and vendors.
Locations of Security Concerns
There are numerous typical locations of security concerns in the industrial IoT system. First of all, cyber attackers can get unauthorized access to a badly protected network in different ways – via an open port, buffer overrun, DoS and DDoS attack. Then, if the web interface is insecure, hackers can take advantage of unprotected data, weak passwords, technical issues with lockout and session control.
The most vulnerable parts in the infrastructure are supervisory control and data acquisition devices, programmed logic controllers, distributed control systems, web and mobile interfaces that provide interaction between humans and machines.
Encryption is a key factor that is often underestimated by industries. If the encryption is not strong enough or is absent, attackers can easily access confidential details during data transmission between devices. Mobile interfaces are targets for hackers as well. The most common problem with them is data breach due to poor encryption and authentication.
Industrial IoT Security Solutions
IIoT infrastructure is versatile and consists of numerous devices and systems. The industry is constantly developing, and there is no single out-of-the-box solution that can protect IIoT from external threats. Therefore, a multifaceted approach needs to be adopted in implementing security measures. Below we will consider the most effective industrial IoT security solutions.
Segmentation is an extremely beneficial solution. If equipment and programs are kept in a separate network after IIoT deployment, a service attack would not influence other devices that belong to a different segment of the ecosystem. To manage user access to data effectively, it is recommended to change credentials after account activation, limit the number of tries while entering a password, and set account lockout after the wrong login and password are entered several times.
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To increase the level of protection, it is advisable to create strong passwords and two-factor authentication access. Encrypted communication will help you protect digital data confidentiality. It is also important to ensure that you don’t forget to close the ports on time and that you protect IoT infrastructure from buffer overrun. Advanced services such as voice recognition systems, biometrics, or the principle of least privilege (PoLP) can be used to detect and prevent potential hazards.
Timely upgrade of the installed firmware is necessary for stable and reliable functioning of the system. Organizations should adhere to the principles of strict software development, create rigorous security standards and protocols, and conduct security audits on a regular basis.