Product Security Glossary

IIoT Security

What is IIoT Security? 

IIoT security is the principles and practices that are meant to protect industrial control systems that are connected together in a network. 

What is the IIoT? 

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) consists of network-connected devices that can either monitor or control processes in an industrial setting.  These devices can be installed in power generation and distribution facilities, manufacturing facilities, or in the transportation sector.  Building Management Systems could also be part of the IIoT. 

What are the benefits of the IIoT? 

The IIoT can help automate many processes that would had to have been performed manually before.  Monitoring devices can gather data about environmental conditions, manufacturing conditions, or traffic conditions, and provide instant feedback to ensure that things get properly adjusted for optimal workflow.  Other network-connected devices can accept data from the monitoring devices, and make that adjustment without human intervention.  IIoT security can play a role in this process. 

Why do we need IIoT security? 

The lack of proper IIoT security could present many problems.  Obviously, poorly secured devices could allow bad actors to steal sensitive data that are being transferred between the devices and the device gateways.  Also, a bad actor could take control of a poorly secured device and manipulate it in a way that could cause injury, death, or property damage.  What might not be so obvious, is that an attacker could take control of a device, and then do a lateral move into the rest of the corporate network. 

What are the challenges of IIoT security? 

The biggest challenge we face with IIoT security is that there’s no standardized set of manufacturing best practices for dealing with device security.  Many legacy devices run with outdated software and operating systems, and many are exposed to the public Internet. 

Industrial device networks can be very complex, consisting of many different types of devices, with different types of user interfaces and running different communications protocols.  This would make it hard to keep track of them, and could also make it hard to perform even the simplest basic security tasks, such as updating device passwords. 

The final challenge could be the biggest.  It’s that many personnel lack the knowledge and awareness that they should have about IIoT security. 

How can we enhance IIoT security? 

First and foremost, device manufacturers need to start building security into their devices.  Adding security to a device that wasn’t designed to be secure would be difficult at best, and impossible at worst. 

Personnel who manage industrial devices need to be trained to deal with industrial IoT security.  There should also be an inventory system to help keep track of what devices are installed and where they are. 

Finally, larger organizations with a very large network of devices might consider purchasing the services of a Managed Security Service Provider. 

For a lot of reasons, IIoT security is important.  Fortunately, there are things we can do to help make our IIoT as secure as possible.