When applied in industrial control system (ICS) environments, Internet of Things (IoT) technologies result in the creation of cyber-physical systems — systems that combine advanced manufacturing technologies with advanced computing technologies to create better outcomes. These systems promise vastly improved operational efficiencies, but they’re not without security risks.

This digitized model drives smarter manufacturing operations. Industrial IoT equips machines and the humans who work with them to understand, reason and learn to drive operational improvements. But without adequate security, these systems become vulnerable to cyberattacks that can put the future of businesses and their entire ecosystems at risk.

What Are the Risks Associated With Industrial IoT Security?

To better understand industrial IoT (IIoT) security risks and implications, the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) partnered with Oxford Economics to survey 700 executives. These executives represent 700 companies in 18 countries from the energy and industrial sectors, of which 135 were automotive companies. These organizations are all deploying IIoT technologies and use ICS and/or SCADA systems in their operations.

The results of the study as they apply to the automotive industry are presented in a new report, “Automotive Industrial Internet of Things: Quick to Implement, Slow to Secure,” which discusses the level of IIoT technology adoption in the automotive industry and explores the cybersecurity risks associated with these technologies.

Automotive companies are embracing IIoT technologies, with machine and process automation as the primary applications. The executives of these auto companies understand the risks and potentially disastrous implications of a data breach for their critical business operations, yet they are deploying the technologies at a far faster rate than they are securing them. The IBV report partially attributed this to an apparent lack of clarity on the combination of security capabilities (processes, technologies and resources) required for secure IIoT adoption.

A Template for Secure Industrial IoT deployments

The report revealed that although organizations’ IIoT cybersecurity capabilities are not yet mature, there are a few top performers that have a much better grasp of the security requirements of their IIoT deployments — and connected industrial control systems in general — than other automotive companies. They differentiate from their peers in three areas:

  1. Protecting data throughout the IIoT ecosystem.
  2. Protecting devices throughout their life cycles, including keeping security systems up to date.
  3. Augmenting detection and response with automation and artificial intelligence (AI).

These top performers have achieved IIoT success by applying a risk- and compliance-based approach to security while focusing on nine specific practices:

  1. Applying user privacy controls to IIoT devices.
  2. Using authentication to verify users on IIoT devices.
  3. Defining clear service-level agreements SLAs for security and privacy.
  4. Inventorying all authorized and unauthorized software.
  5. Using devices with built-in diagnostics.
  6. Automating the scanning of connected devices.
  7. Securing device hardware and firmware.
  8. Using advanced behavioral analytics for breach detection and response.
  9. Using AI technology to enable real-time monitoring and response.

Other automotive companies can use this experience as a template for how to secure their current and future business from ever-evolving IIoT cybersecurity threats.

Where Should Automotive Companies Start?

The IBV report also shed light on the primary drivers of cybersecurity in the automotive industry and how those drivers align with spending. Companies can start improving their IIoT security posture by focusing on areas that are not well-aligned. By better matching spending with security priorities, automotive companies can invest their resources in cybersecurity initiatives that will deliver long-term benefits.

In addition, organizations need to understand the most vulnerable areas of their IIoT deployments — devices and sensors, according to 30 percent of original equipment manufacturer (OEMs) and 37 percent of suppliers — as well as the most significant IIoT risks to be mitigated, such as the exposure of sensitive data, which was cited by 72 percent of OEMs and 68 percent of suppliers. Focusing on these high-priority concerns will also help auto companies make strategic cybersecurity investments.

Aligning spending with cybersecurity needs and understanding the strategies of top performers can help you create an impactful plan for securing your IIoT investments. As manufacturing evolves and the IIoT becomes a more critical tool for gaining a competitive advantage, being strategic about IoT security can help you make the most of new technologies without inviting any new risks.

Read the IBM IBV report

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