Learn how the industrial internet of things (IIoT) is changing industries around the world, and what your business can do to make sure your IIoT devices are secure.

The fourth industrial revolution – industry 4.0, as some are calling it – is upon us. As digital transformation sweeps across manufacturing, production and related industries, many organizations are grappling with this new stage in the organization and control of the industrial value chain.

One such new technology is the industrial internet of things (IIoT). While the average consumer is probably familiar with the internet of things (IoT), the difference between industrial IoT and IoT is primarily one of scale.

IoT usually refers to consumer devices, such as personal fitness trackers or smart thermostats. It’s an umbrella term that includes all internet-enabled devices, and it’s quickly gaining popularity. In 202 there were more than 10 billion active IoT devices, and that number is only going to grow.

IIoT specifically refers to equipment that is powering enterprises on a much larger scale – for instance, IIoT used in supply chain management. It’s a targeted term meant to draw focus to more complex networks of devices that drive production, and encompasses devices connected to and communicating via the internet; everything from sensors and scales to engines and lifts.

Just as IoT is gaining popularity among consumers, IIoT is gaining popularity among manufacturers. The industrial IoT market size was estimated at $123.89 billion for 2021, and by the end of this year, it’s estimated that 94 percent of businesses will adopt IoT in some way.

IIoT in Major Industries

One industry benefiting from IoT devices is the healthcare industry. The introduction of remote monitoring and telemonitoring gives healthcare organizations the opportunity to improve the quality and speed of their services significantly. IoT is also valuable for creating monitoring hardware and applications that can improve the way patients keep track of their health.

Because the technology is still relatively new, few healthcare statistics reflect these benefits. But we do know that at least 21 percent of U.S. adults regularly wear a smartwatch or a fitness tracker. The sheer amount of data created by that many IoT devices can cause problems itself, and it’s likely that implementing IoT security measures and finding appropriate storage solutions for all this data will soon be a top priority in the healthcare industry.

The global IoT healthcare market is expected to be worth $158.2 billion by 2022, and there were an estimated 646 million IoT devices used in hospitals, clinics, and medical offices in 2020. Of these devices, however, research indicates that many use unsupported operating systems, which means they are more prone to security risks.

IIoT is used in the manufacturing sector with the same goals in mind as the healthcare industry: to increase efficiency and maximize productivity. Alas, some of the same security issues that IoT introduces into the healthcare industry are now making their way into manufacturing.

IIoT has helped to streamline the manufacturing sector, historically a highly fragmented field. This transformation is starting to gain traction, as 58 percent of manufacturers say IIoT is a strategic necessity for digitally transforming industrial operations.

By creating more embedded devices that have IT functions, manufacturers now have the ability to create “smart factories” by compiling and analyzing data from their devices in real-time.

Some of the efficiencies created by IIoT in manufacturing include:

  • Better predictive maintenance and repair.
  • Shorter time to market.
  • Increased customization.
  • Asset tracking along supply chains.
  • Optimal facility management.
  • Cost reductions.
  • Safer workplaces.
  • More user-friendly interfaces.

Many of the benefits of IIoT in manufacturing may seem too good to be true – and if you ignore IIoT’s security concerns, they are. Because IIoT is still an emerging area, there aren’t many security standards to which organizations are held, and technology companies are keen to get their IoT products out into the market as quickly as possible. Under these circumstances, IoT and IIoT security often takes a back seat.

Common Security Issues with the IIoT

Criminals know that IoT and IIoT security is not mature, making these devices an easy target. According to IoT-based attacks statistics from 2019, the average IoT device gets attacked just five minutes after it goes live.

While attacks on IoT are common, the individual consequences for the consumer are usually contained to a mild annoyance; a data breach may result in fraud, but in the grand scheme of things, changing your credit card information isn’t a huge hassle.

The consequences of an IIoT security breach can be much more serious. Loss of production, loss or revenue, data theft, significant equipment damage, industrial espionage, and even bodily harm are just some of the consequences of an IIoT security incident.

As more and more devices and sensors come online, they will only create more communication channels, data stores, ports, and endpoints. An increased attack surface resulting from increased connectivity represents more vulnerabilities if left unprotected.

So how do organizations that rely on IIoT keep themselves secure against these types of threats, especially as they continue to get more sophisticated and more successful?

Best Practices for Securing the IIoT

While cybersecurity management isn’t a new concept, many industrial systems have never been connected to the internet before. Managers of industrial systems therefore need to implement sound cybersecurity practices for their IIoT world. Below are several best practices that every industrial systems manager should use.

Use Existing Frameworks

Start by looking at existing cybersecurity frameworks and decide which are best for your organization to use. As a relatively new technology, IIoT has fewer frameworks to choose from, but there are a few you should consider at least for reference when creating your own.

If your organization operates in critical information infrastructure, look at the ENISA Baseline Security Recommendations for IoT. This framework provides information on how to secure devices, with measures for three main categories: policies; organizational, people and processes; and technical measures. This particular framework provides a less formal process, but it has solid recommendations for securing your devices.

For organizations not necessarily involved in the production of IIoT technologies, consider the IoT Security Foundation Security Compliance Framework. This particular framework has a wide scope, and includes security requirements for mobile applications, cloud services, the supply chain and production processes. This framework is best suited for organizations using IoT or IIoT as a means of additional security not only in the device itself, but also in the business processes and the surrounding systems.

For organizations developing and manufacturing IIoT devices, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) EN 30 645 is a more mature framework that specifies 65 security provisions for consumer IoT devices that are connected to a network. This framework and the OWASP Internet of Things Security Verification Standard (ISVS) both provide basic security guidelines for IoT devices, as well as security requirements for IoT applications. The OWASP framework goes a step further and also provides a checklist to verify whether a product is secure after development.

Secure Your Network

Even within the confines of local area networks (LAN), IoT and IIoT security needs to be taken seriously. In fact, routers act as a gateway for IoT attacks in nearly 75 percent of cases, and 48 percent of businesses admit that they are unable to detect IoT breaches on their network. While this research suggests that organizations using IoT are at higher risk of a network breach, the data for IIoT is even more concerning.

IIoT facilities present unique challenges due to the diverse equipment used in various locations, not to mention that most IIoT systems aren’t built with optimal security in mind. Prioritizing LAN security means protecting all of your devices from unauthorized access, no matter what their operational technology (OT) function might be.

The first step is to get a better understanding of which IIoT devices and sensors are installed onto your network. In a larger ecosystem, this could amount to hundreds of thousands of IIoT connections. Even if your organization already has data on all of its sensors, devices and internet-connected cyber-physical systems across your network, you’ll also need a system for applying patches. That isn’t as simple as it sounds; in many cases, updates will need to be patched manually, which often isn’t possible without shutting down your IIoT devices. Failing to apply patches, however, can have much more dire consequences.

Segment your network so that IIoT devices are running separately to the information technology that powers the rest of your organization. This way, your IIoT devices are less likely to be infiltrated. If they are operating on the same network as, say, your office computers, it’s quite likely that a hacker could use those endpoints as a means to infiltrate your industrial environment via phishing attempt or malware attack.

You also need to assure that your network ports are secure, as they are at risk of attack if they aren’t properly configured, they’re left open, or you have poor authentication practices in place. Any data that’s transmitted through these ports can easily be intercepted by cyberattackers, and ports that are used often are usually at greater risk.

With the increase in connected data sharing across networks of IIoT devices and facilities, IIoT manufacturing plants create yet another potential vulnerability. Inevitably, as the amount of intelligent machinery grows, the need to secure increasing data stores and gateways will rise too.

Secure Your Endpoints

Endpoints without clearly defined user permissions and multi-factor authentication leave your network of IIoT devices more vulnerable to unauthorized activity disruption. For this reason, endpoint management is critical to security. Even if the IIoT sensors and connected devices are segmented, the users who consume that data are increasingly offsite.

Strong password policies, multi-factor authentication, firewalls, and anti-virus software are the basic preventative measures you should take for all of your organization’s endpoints, regardless of whether or not they interact with your IIoT network. Assuring that these devices are secure is one of the most important aspects of cybersecurity today.

Choose Tools to Help

Staying on top of compliance requirements, IIoT security, network segmentation, and more can quickly get overwhelming. With the right tools, securing and monitoring your IIoT devices and networks can be a breeze. A number of security solutions can help you ensure that your organization is protected from security incidents pertaining to IIoT devices and the endpoints they touch.

That’s where ZenRisk can help.

Secure Your Business and Network With Reciprocity ZenRisk

With digital transformation rapidly changing how organizations rely on technology to do business, it’s no wonder that many organizations struggle to stay on top of their security. Add the complexity of IIoT devices – many of which could cause potentially devastating consequences if breached – and organizational cybersecurity can become a daunting task. Fortunately, there are security solutions designed to help.

Reciprocity ZenRisk is an integrated cybersecurity risk management solution, designed to provide you with actionable insights to gain the visibility you need to stay ahead of threats and clearly communicate the impact of risk on high-priority business initiatives. Turn the unknown into quantifiable and actionable risk insights with built-in expertise that identifies and maps risks, threats and controls for you, so you can spend less time setting up the application and more time using it.

A single, real-time view of risk and business context allows you to communicate to the board and key stakeholders in a way that’s framed around their priorities, keeping your risk posture in sync with the direction your business is moving.

Reciprocity ZenRisk will even notify you automatically of any changes or required actions, so you can be on top of your risk posture like never before. Eliminate time-consuming, manual work and streamline collaboration by automating workflows and integrating with your most critical systems.

Plus, Reciprocity ZenRisk is seamlessly integrated with Reciprocity ZenComply so you can leverage your compliance activities to improve your risk posture with the use of AI. It is built on the ZenGRC, the Reciprocity product suite gives you the ability to see, understand and take action on your IT and cyber risks.

Now, through a more proactive approach, you can give time back to your team with Reciprocity ZenRisk. Talk to an expert today to learn more about how the Reciprocity Product Suite can help your organization mitigate cybersecurity risk and stay ahead of threats.