Manufacturing industries have evolved drastically over the last decade or so. With the advancements in technologies, manufacturers are aggressively adopting IT/OT convergence tools. Embedded systems, be in in the form of a small smart sensor, or a PLC/DCS, HMI, or an edge device are staring to play a more prominent role. Located in the lower tier of the IIoT hierarchy, these embedded systems are also connected to the cloud either directly or through gateways. The number of continuously connected nodes is increasing. While this trend is proving to be beneficial for the overall manufacturing processes, the dependence on the internet makes the embedded systems highly vulnerable to cybersecurity risks.

This is precisely why cybersecurity threats need to be taken seriously. As a result, OEMs of such hardware systems are looking for secure connectivity mechanisms through innovative security and networking technologies.

In this article, we look into why cybersecurity is an essential element of embedded systems in the IIoT landscape. We shall also discuss the ways to protect it against cyberattacks.

Cybersecurity in IIoT

Every time you add a hardware device into your network, you are directly inviting the cyber attackers. These cyberattacks can hamper your company’s productivity and also in the long run, tarnish your company’s image on the global platform.

The meshed network of embedded devices with a cloud backend opens the gate for several cyber threats. Worms can enter the network using a compromised small digital sensor and disrupt the complete production. Several possible scenarios exist. Inadvertent plugging of an infected USB into a system is far too common. You get the drift here. The potential of loss (money and life also) is significant, and cannot be underestimated. Imagine if a cyber attacker hacks one of the embedded devices, say a PLC in an assembly line and changes the critical parameters outside the safe band. Once an attacker gets in the embedded network layer and manages to alter even one device, a chain reaction gets triggered where every interconnected device faces the aftermath of such an attack. This may also result in a fatal shutdown, some severe data breach, or potential loss of life.

A strong security blanket around the embedded nodes is required to keep the sensitive data secured while also allowing process to run seamlessly.

How to prevent attacks on embedded systems

To prevent such cyber-attacks and extend help to the manufacturing industries or any industry that implements IIoT, the industrial internet consortium (IIC) lays down a few guidelines for best cybersecurity practices. Implementing these, you can create secure protective layers around your IIoT ecosystem and prevent attacks on embedded systems. Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), a nonprofit foundation, also gives guidelines that aim to prevent cyberattacks on your endpoint systems.

Here are some of the best practices you can implement in your IIoT ecosystem to protect your embed systems and ensure a productive Industrie 4.0 journey:

  • Authentication & Authorization

Authentication can be achieved by having an endpoint identity. A mandatory public critical Infrastructure (PKI) is required for authentication for all levels of security. This ensures each of your integrated hardware such as sensors, actuators etc., are configured only by authorized personnel with recognized level of clearance to prevent from tampering with the settings which may cause

irreparable damages to your IIoT framework. Having authorized security keys or a layer of network security based on internet security protocol prevents attackers from using the information from IT to manipulate the OT systems.

  • Endpoint security and Trustworthiness

Endpoint nodes like sensors, control systems, or any other embedded field system have the potential to attract cyber attackers. Therefore for endpoint nodes, you need to provide a “root of trust” which forms the foundation for endpoint security. Similarly, embedded systems having debug ports for configuring and testing the devices are also an easy gateway for cyberattacks. To prevent this, you can lockout debugging ports and provide restrictions or other credentials to ensure authorized access to those connection ports. You have to implement robust algorithms to ensure an end-to-end encryption of data to avoid data breaches.

  • Confidentiality & Integrity

To maintain the confidentiality and integrity of the endpoint system trusted platform module, TPM must be implemented. It includes symmetric and asymmetric keys and functions that ensure secure and seamless communication between devices. It ensures that the sensitive data are confidential and you are protected from attacks. The convergence or integration of hardware and software are covered by a TPM.

  • Availability & Non-repudiation

One of the crucial aspects in maintaining cybersecurity is to choose a reliable commercial security platform that suits your embedded system requirements. Each of these platforms have their own advantages. Some require low-level hardware implementation while others provide embedded visualization that accelerates the embedded device security. There is no one-size fits for all concept when dealing with your IIoT security.

In a nutshell

The recent embedded technology advancements has indeed shaped the world of manufactures for the better. However, it also brings in threats that can prove fatal if you do not take proper care. Lack of security measures leads to unwanted results like declined reliability, increased liability and customer dissatisfaction due to the low quality of services.

To help OEMs, discrete and process manufacturers, the security experts at Utthunga have implemented various security measures to ensure cybersecurity for your embedded systems in the IIoT space. Leverage the cybersecurity services from Utthunga and be assured of adequate security that drives quality services and customer satisfaction.


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