IoT Knowledge Center

What will be the way to secure industrial IoT

Sunitha / 11 Mar 2021 / IOT Industry | IOT AI

Among the myriad applications of IoT, industrial IoT is an important segment. Industrial IoT (IIoT) encompasses cloud, AI, analytics, and IoT edge computing and involves people, computers, and smart machines. IoT in manufacturing is the largest and a crucial component of IoT. But since they are connected and linked, they become targets for cybercrimes. 

When industrial devices are linked and interconnected, they provide links with other networks. In some instances, the very tools that have enhanced industrial production and safety can be wielded to compromise the same systems. Security cameras are a common hacking point, a vulnerable breach in a system.


IIoT devices do not need human interaction and often these security lapses go undetected and unnoticed. This is particularly so when the malware or hack does not affect the functionality of the device.  Our world is increasingly computerized and networked. A successful cyberattack in one network can have an extensive ripple impact on many companies, and industries. IoT opened plenty of IoT career opportunities in intelligent manufacturing, assert performance, industrial control, efficiency optimization, linking islands of automation, and smart industry. IoT jobs in IIoT security will also be highly sought after in the coming years. 


How industrial IoT has revolutionized the manufacturing sectors?

IIoT automation is one of the primary industrial IoT applications. This includes remotely controlled digital equipment of several plants located in different locations. This offers an extensive overview of the real-time production processes. Operational intelligence offers a competitive edge to manufacturing and industrial businesses. 

  • Predictive maintenance is another critical manufacturing and operations parameter that IIoT applications offer. Sensor-enabled machinery sends alerts or warnings when it perceives risks based on high vibrations or temperatures. The real-time data is analyzed to identify if parameters are exceeding normal levels.
  • Smart inventory monitoring is possible with Industrial IoT systems. Possible deviations and excesses will trigger alerts.
  • The overall safety of the plant and equipment can be ensured with an effective IIoT system. Possible hazardous scenarios can be avoided by constant monitoring of plant air quality, temperature, effluents, and worker safety.
  • Smart machines and robotics are harnessed to trigger repair before the machinery breaks down. They can function remotely or alongside humans.
  • Workers are given wearables that help reduce errors and enhance safety processes in the workplace. Helmets and wristbands track health metrics such as pulse, respiration rate, and temperature so that worker health and safety are monitored. This is particularly useful in hazardous industries where there is toxic gas or radiation.
  • Warehousing is an area that has undergone a significant transformation with IoT automation. Robots can locate product shelves and reduce time and effort. 
  • With the cloud-based analysis of IoT system data, failure of components and predictive maintenance is possible. This reduces downtime and the manufacturing processes can be suitably corrected.
  • Logistics companies can track assets and optimize costs through route planning and fuel consumption tracking. 
  • IoT automated guided vehicles can move materials and parts around the manufacturing facilities. 


How do IIoT systems become vulnerable to hackers?   

  • Most industrial IoT systems are always left on as they perform vital functions in industries. This makes them always visible and available for potential hacking.
  • The scale of IIoT operations is mostly very huge, involving hundreds of thousands of connected devices. The large network of devices makes them vulnerable to hacking or Denial of Service attacks.
  • Since the IIoT devices are linked to much larger industrial systems, they serve as a critical link to gain entry to larger networks. 
  • Most industrial IoT devices operate with embedded operating systems and this makes them particularly vulnerable to malware infections. Their unpatched vulnerabilities or outdated firmware are most often used to launch attacks.
  • Usage of weak passwords or weak authentication methods is another vulnerability that hackers use to their advantage. 


Security attacks on IIoT systems

DoS (Denial of Service)

    A DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack seeks to render a network or device unavailable to the users. The services of the host connecting to the Internet are disrupted. Utility services and manufacturing facilities can be crippled with such DDoS attacks. 

    Phishing or PDoS (Permanent Denial of Service) attack renders the connected device unusable. The hardware has to be reinstalled and such cyberattacks can lead to rendering a system completely useless. 

    Device hijacking

    A particular connected device is hacked but its basic functionality is not hampered. This makes such a hijacking difficult to identify and detect. With one infected device, the entire network is compromised.

    Man in the middle Breach

    When a communication within the network is breached by spoofing or interrupting it, the hijacker assumes the control of a smart actuator. This can create serious safety hazards within an industrial setup. There are various locations on the IIoT platforms where possible security breaches can occur. Securing the IIoT would involve the use of sophisticated data tools and AI technology to identify potential threats. Weak encryption is a possible threat location. It might allow unauthorized intruders to gain access to the data that is transmitted between the connected devices. 

    Insecure Networks are another potential security hazard. They are vulnerable to DoS attacks, buffer overflows, and open ports. Mobile interfaces that do not have sufficient authentication and encryption are also a threat. Legacy equipment is often retrofitted with IoS sensors and devices. This extends the lifecycle of the equipment and allows it to be completely integrated with the IIoT system. But legacy security must be properly attended to at this stage. 


    Ways to ensure industrial IoT system safety

    Industrial infrastructure also encompasses IIoT systems that must be secured from malicious software attacks. 

    • End-to-End encryption is a secure protocol that allows only authenticated users to access the transmitted data on a network. The authentication is provided through a decryption key.
    • The integrity of the firmware must be authenticated during a secure boot. This ensures that only OEM code is executed. Secure boot technology is a deterrent to malicious instruction code. 
    • The data on the IIoT system must be captured for monitoring. Any potential security violations or potential threats can then be identified. The credentials for the offending device can be revoked or it can be quarantined based on its anomalous behavior.
    • Any smart actuator on the IIoT system must be authenticated before data is transmitted on it. With this mutual authentication system, every device and service must prove its identity. Secure keys can be generated for cryptographic algorithmic verification.


    Final Thoughts

    The IIoT industry is still lacking in standards for safety protocols. The solution for IoT Information  of the future will usher in an era of immense possibilities. 3D modeling systems and digital twins can be used for new product development. Considerable time and resources will be reduced. Testing will become simpler with industrial IoT as 3D prints can be sent to testing locations. Real-time data will go a long way in testing manufactured batches for performance and durability. Mass production and assembly will be possible. Hard-wired industrial IoT devices will give way to Wi-Fi solutions.