Manufacturers need access to their data from the plant floor to the C-suite in order to make informed decisions for short-term and long-term improvements of operations. But access to this data has not always been a reality. With Industry 4.0 on everyone’s minds and many roadmaps, more organizations are moving their data to the cloud through connected devices. This data is then aggregated in an IIoT platform, which can then offer some visualization or put into Big Data mining tools for advanced analytics. As organizations evaluate IIoT platforms, AI, and other advanced analytics systems to fit their needs, cyber security is seen as a technical requirement over a strategic tool.
Cyber security threats are a concern for any business housing data in the cloud. From the way your platform processes your data to how your employees access that data, your IIoT platform needs to be equipped with the processes and features to prevent a breach.
When it comes to IIoT platform cyber security, in some ways it is similar to any other system. In other ways, there are some unique data storage and processes considerations. Learn some of the best practices for protecting your organizational data against imminent cyber security threats.
Choose a Trusted Partner
Look for an IIoT platform vendor who values and puts an emphasis on security. It can be easy to assume that the biggest, most well-known players in the IIoT space are the most secure. Yet, a culture focused on security doesn’t only exist at large companies. With cyber criminals constantly changing their approach, see an IIoT platform partner with a continuous focus on cyber security best practices and testing.
ISO Certified companies are held to a high standard of security. To achieve and maintain these certifications, IIoT platform providers must undergo rigorous and continuous training, testing, and recertification procedures. This certification is from a third-party and remains more neutral in their evaluations that companies may even conduct on their own.
Another aspect to consider in your trusted partner is experience. An IIoT platform is just one aspect of digital transformation. It’s important to find a partner who understands your cyber security concerns and threats from implementing, leveraging, and handling your proprietary data.
Limit the Entry Points to Your Data
The benefits of an IIoT platform and Digital Twin(s) are made possible through connected softwares and devices. In relation to cyber security, however, the more devices and layers of access you have, the more opportunities there are for a security breach.
The fewer layers of connection that exist between your software and devices, the more restricted your data can be to outsiders (cyber criminals) while still providing secure access to insiders (your people) who you trust to create a secure work flow and process of securing the transfer of data.
When selecting an IIoT platform, consider whether you want a solution that offers an Internet network or an industrial network. Not all platforms offer a cloud and an edge solution. Is security a large concern in your organization? More restrictive access (such as an industrial network) might be your best solution, yet you’ll have some latency for the network to hit your intranet and then transfer to a cloud or platform. Alternatively, if accessibility and usage among your employees is a top priority, using a cloud solution could be best for you. When looking for a secure offer, make sure there are processes in place such as metadata tagging, encryption, and two-factor authentication.
Strengthen Your Weakest Link: Your People
Phishing attacks are considered one of the most effective ways cyber criminals gain access to proprietary company data. In a phishing attack, your employees are targeted directly with an attempt to get them to click to install malware or expose their credentials. With an IIoT platform, there are more connected devices to be hacked and without the proper precautions, you could quickly compromise your valuable secrets.
Single sign-on (SSO) or multi-factor authentication solutions are becoming increasingly important to prevent access to critical data or devices through stolen credentials. Seek a solution that contains one of these features. Be sure to implement it as you onboard each user to your IIoT platform and add connected devices. This can decrease the chances of security breaches by ensuring employees are forced to take steps towards private browsing or working sessions.
Understand a Vendor’s Security Breach Protocol
Not all cyber security attacks can be stopped, so need a plan should something happen. As part of an ISO 27001 audit, companies must share their communication protocol and quality assurance processes should a breach occur. Dig into security protocols to have a more in-depth understanding if a violation occurs.
You should also have a thorough understanding of how data is backed up and stored. Where are the company servers? Have they had problems with shutdowns or loss of data? What type of security does their data center(s) possess? If an IIoT vendor is unable to provide documentation to ease your concerns, you may want to consider an alternate solution to keep your data, your people, and your processes secure.
As your company continues progressing along the path to Industry 4.0, your data sources will continue to expand and your cyber security threats tend to grow as well. Identify threats and weaknesses early in your digital transformation journey to develop relevant countermeasures. Cyber security should never be an afterthought in implementing an IIoT platform: it should be a technical requirement at the forefront of your IIoT vendor decision. With your data serving you as one of your biggest assets, it’s not worth the risk to expose your data, but with a secure, vetted provided, you’ll be on your way to a successful implementation of IIoT.
Scaling Your IIoT Platform
Implementing an IIoT platform doesn’t stop with the first production line, business unit, or facility. Scaling your IIoT solution across departments, regions, or even product lines is the key to reaching optimal efficiency. These considerations for your corporate rollout are important to evaluate even before you begin your digital transformation.
IIoT Platform Considerations
While there are plenty of examples of best practices for implementing an IIoT platform, these five less-obvious approaches may be the key to helping drive a successful implementation. From choosing the right platform to multi-facility rollouts, these considerations can help you transition from a successful implementation to a successful Industry 4.0.
Cloud or Edge IIoT Platform
Oftentimes companies seek a cloud or edge solution in their pursuit of Industry 4.0. With so many IIoT platform options on the market, it’s important to first understand your current state, your future goals, and your timeline. Ultimately, the solution is not either cloud or edge—it is based on your goals.