3WaySecure Consulting

Cybersecurity challenges and solutions for the industrial companies


Industry 4.0 is a new idea for industrial companies and becomes widely adopted by many organizations. Interconnectedness is an important aspect of industry 4.0. This interconnectedness also creates a challenge in the form of cybersecurity. The damages that could be caused to a business due to absence or lack of cybersecurity is extensive. In the pursuit of achieving efficiency and profitability through Industry 4.0, the safety and security of the business must not be neglected. Applying strategic cybersecurity solutions will help to prevent cyberattacks and protect businesses.

What is Industry 4.0?

The fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, is the digital transformation of industries. It was first introduced by German scientists. The features of Industry 4.0 are that there are more inter-connectivity and smart automation in the industries and even end products. The software systems are embedded to products or machinery, such that each product functions as a single smart machine and can communicate with each other.

IOT (Internet Of Things) is one of the buzz words of Industry 4.0. The common understanding of IOT is that it makes every physical object in the industry to be an endpoint and connects all the endpoints together by internet. Each endpoint in the system is able to transfer data to other endpoints. Through the internet, the central system is able to push data to all the endpoints to control them, or the endpoints can push data to the central system to report self-status and information of anomalies. As a result, the industry can gather all the information from each endpoint together and analyze the information to create a more effective way to work for each endpoint.

Also, decentralized decisions are another character of Industry 4.0. The main idea of it is the cyber systems are able to make decisions by themselves. Only when the systems met exception cases which they cannot decide what to do, the problem will be sent to upper level to solve.

Use case of Industry 4.0

There are multiple use cases for Industry 4.0, which is why widespread adoption of the technology is seen in the recent past. Managing supply chain, smart factory, system integration, advanced manufacturing and 3D printing are some of the notable ones.

By using industry 4.0 solutions, each step of supply chain can be managed efficiently. The entire supply chain is connected to each other without any separation so that companies can deliver products to customers faster, cheaper but with a higher quality.

Similarly, digitalization of production leads to intelligent/smart factory, improving agility and flexibility of production lines.

Security breaches in Industry 4.0

Because the high usage of internet and more single endpoints in a system, Industries have to face many security challenges. Firstly, every endpoint can be a potential risk for the system. In Industry 4.0, all the products or devices are viewed as a single endpoint and all the endpoints are connected to each other. Hence, an attacker could compromise the whole system through a single endpoint. Secondly, previously isolated systems may become the target of attacker. When Industry 4.0 technology connects to systems that were previously isolated, attackers who targeted those previously isolated system may cause harm to the industry 4.0 system.

Also, the complex system of industry 4.0 makes upgrading highly problematic. As the system needs to control a huge number of endpoints, it becomes very complicated for technicians to maintain. The upgrading of the system is often installed piecemeal, and this may create vulnerabilities for attacker to compromise the system easily. Finally, there is fewer regulated compliance standard in industry 4.0. As Industry 4.0 is a new idea to all industries, there are few standards can be used for industries.

Potential damages and losses due to lack of cybersecurity

In the absence or lack of cybersecurity, industrial organizations may face to the following damages and losses when a cyberattack takes place:

1.Data leak:

Data leak means unauthorized transmission of data – When an attacker breaks into the system, copies the data inside the organization without altering it, and then reveals that data to an unintended, external recipient. Sensitive data such as customer information, product formulation and order details may be leaked to an organization’s competitor, which may cause huge loss to the organization.

2.Productivity loss:

In industrial organizations, loss of availability or production translates to loss of revenue. Hence availability of systems is paramount to the business. When a cyber-attack, such as a ransomware takes place, it may affect the availability of business, for example – by halting production lines. If an attacker modifies or deletes business critical data pertaining to operations, it may result in halting operations until the systems are restored.

3.Reputational damage:

When news of cyberattack on an organization breaks, public perception of that organization takes a hit. The reputation of the company may be negatively influenced as customers will have concerns about their personal information. This quite often leads to loss of trust and in turn loss of business.

4.Monetary Loss:

A successful ransomware attack results in attackers demanding ransom to unlock the encrypted files. This may result in monetary losses for the business, if they choose to pay the ransom or even if not. Even when a business chooses not to pay the ransom, it may affect productivity through halting of operations until files are restored, which is time consuming.

5.Equipment damage:

Use of destructive malware often always leads to equipment damage. Equipment of manufacturing may be damaged or even destroyed, if attacker controls the system by sending wrong instructions to the target machine. The recent attacks on industrial ecosystems have witnessed use of destructive malware which damages the hardware, in which case it costs money to repair the damaged hardware resulting in monetary losses.

Solutions of cybersecurity breaches in Industry 4.0

1.Data encryption:

Encryption makes data in transit as well as data at rest unreadable for attacker. This could effectively reduce data leak and prevent attacker compromise the system through an attack like man-in-the-middle attack. Encrypting data traffic passing through IOT, communication between two endpoints is protected and attack surface is minimized. Also, by encrypting data that is stored, businesses could minimize the effect of an attack such as a malware attack.

2.Network segmentation:

By segmenting critical assets and non-critical assets, as well as critical data traffic and non-critical data traffic, the spread of an attack will be limited to a limited area in case of a cyberattack. For example, by hosting IOT devices on separate network, the vulnerabilities of the IOT devices may potentially be limited to the network in which it is present. This makes sure that an attack on one single endpoint will not negatively influence the rest of the system.

3.Employee training:

Businesses must understand that cybersecurity is not a single person’s or single team’s responsibility, it is the responsibility of every employee in an organization – from the board member to an operations technician. A simple phishing email may let attacker compromise a careless employee’s email account and attacker could use that account to infect the whole system. This is especially true for business that are making its transition or already made their transition to Industry 4.0. Every employee must be trained with the basic idea of Industry 4.0 and the common security rules in Industry 4.0. This improves their awareness, and improves the chances of protecting the organization against cyberattacks.

4.Principle of least privilege:

When each user in an organization is provided access to the systems that they only need for their day-to-day operations, that is called least privilege access. This concept of limiting a user’s access only to a small set of assets they need to perform their work, will limit the impact of an attack to that user account alone. An attacker who has managed to compromise the credentials of a single user, may not be able to use that account to compromise the entire organization. This feature minimizes the impact of a cyberattack.

5.Password rules and two-factor authentication:

Use of strong passwords effectively prevents an attacker from successfully performing password attacks such as brute force attack to compromise a system or account. Similarly, by using authentication security features such as two-factor authentication, creates an additional layer of security for a system or user. This, as well, limits the ability of an attacker to successfully perform an attack to compromise a system or user.

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