Securing an IIoT network certainly seems inherently challenging, yet doing absolutely nothing and allowing cyber miscreants to pilfer data is not the answer. IIoT, short for Industrial Internet of Things, connects industrial devices to one another, allowing data to be gathered and analyzed to provide important insights and make business processes that much more efficient. If IIoT security is not properly implemented, there will be a negative impact on the organization’s cybersecurity. This is also true of every other IoT network. The last thing you want is to provide hackers with many more opportunities to hack into your system and cause a litany of problems that extend well beyond the theft of data.
The Vulnerabilities of IIoT
IIoT includes diminutive sensors as well as sizable industrial equipment. When properly applied, IIoT can help drive operational efficiency in power stations, utility companies, and manufacturing plants. In fact, predictive maintenance has the potential to help considerably by keeping costs to a minimum and ensuring essential infrastructure runs as smoothly as possible.
IIoT networks are somewhat unique in that it is possible for an existing network that was kept separate for monitored and controlled devices like valves and pumps to be combined with the rest of the IT network. Though this approach has its merits, there is a risk that once connected to a more expansive network, the essential software that ran within the previously secure environment can become an open target for hackers.
The Threat is Real
An IIoT cyberattack is not just theoretical. Hackers have already transmitted malware directly to industrial networks through exploitation of web-connected sensors that provide a clear path to network access. As an example, hackers have succeeded in turning off power for entire regions of countries. The moral of this story is the more connectivity, the greater the risk. Though businesses didn’t consider the extent of their vulnerability in the 90s, the rise in attacks in recent decades is heightening awareness all the more.
If poorly installed on the network, IIoT devices will generate that many more vulnerabilities, creating additional attack vectors that might end up compromised. Furthermore, the majority of IoT products are sold with bare-bones security, meaning the onus is on the buyer to pinpoint vulnerabilities. However, even if patches are provided to account for security vulnerabilities, manual updates are necessary, meaning the devices will not be fortified exactly as they should. The end result is a vulnerability that presents the attacker with an opportunity to wreak havoc.
Updating IIoT products or equipment is essential. Furthermore, it is prudent to change the default login credentials and passwords as they provide easy network entry. Even if the system is quite complex, default passwords are an open backdoor that will cause problems. It is also important to understand which sensors are installed on the network so there is an awareness of potential vulnerabilities.
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Software can also be used to analyze the network and obtain real-time information as to which devices and sensors are active within the IIoT security environment. Though manual patching takes effort, it is worth it because sensors and devices are essential components in industrial environments. In some instances, it is necessary to shut down the industrial site so the appropriate security patches can be added.
Hyper-Awareness is Essential for IIoT Security
IIoT security threats continue to evolve. Additional devices connected to the network, such as a computer that accesses the web, can lead to malware by clicking an attachment. If IIoT is used at your business, you should consider micro-segmentation with separate networks for additional protection. Keep an open mind, pivot accordingly and you will have done your part to keep your systems safe.