NewsSeptember 22, 2016 @ 11:04 AM

Industrial Internet Consortium Develops an IoT Security Framework

AT&T, Cisco Systems, General Electric, IBM and Intel formed the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) about two years ago. The group focuses on industrial uses for the Internet of Things (IoT) and the associated security problems. The consortium now includes over 25 organizations contributing to a new IoT security framework.

The IIC is working toward establishing equipment, such as sensors, valves and motors, capable of communicating with IT systems that can control the machinery and analyze data from the equipment. However, the consortium will not set actual standards or regulations. Instead, it plans to work around existing standards to make products from various vendors work seamlessly together in the real world.

The IoT Security Framework

The IIC recently published its first Industrial Internet Security Framework (IISF) report, which details an in-depth, cross-industry security framework composed of expert vision, experience and best practices. The framework offers a unified approach to assessing cybersecurity posture in an industrial IoT system.

In the document, IIC noted that an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) system exhibits five key end-to-end characteristics: security, safety, reliability, resilience and privacy. Other characteristics, such as scalability, usability, maintainability, portability and composability, are also considered important.

Each key system characteristic must be assured in its own way. Still, there may be common techniques available to all of them. According to the document, three elements — confidentiality, integrity and availability — are essential to the security of information and system assets. The report refers to these elements by the acronym CIA.

Immature security may be the biggest factor delaying the adoption of IIoT, Jesus Molina, co-chair of the IIC’s security working group, told CSO Online. Components commonly used in enterprise IT security, such as identity and root of trust, don’t really exist yet in IoT, he explained.

Security Is a Continuum

The document also explained that system security is a continuum, not a Boolean state. It’s important to understand that it’s impossible for every IIoT system to behave securely at all times and within every context.

The IISF is a good first step in addressing a topic that isn’t going away anytime soon. The framework will change, no doubt, as security methods evolve, but the importance of IoT security will only increase.

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Larry Loeb

Principal, PBC Enterprises

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He wrote for IBM's DeveloperWorks site for seven years and has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet protocol. His latest book has the commercially obligatory title of Hack Proofing XML. He's been online since uucp "bang" addressing (where the world existed relative to !decvax), serving as editor of the Macintosh Exchange on BIX and the VARBusiness Exchange.