Industrial Revolution 4.0: India’s cyber security challenges and opportunities

by Khushhal Kaushik

Digitised systems, while more efficient, are not without their concerns. A cyber security expert outlines the various digital threats that enterprises are vulnerable to and suggests some counter measures to prevent these security risks.

Industry 4.0 is a standard term to depict the fourth-generation industrial revolution that we are passing through nowadays. Automation, IoT and data analytics have made production processes smarter, intelligent and more productive.

With each passing day, latest technologies like cloud computing, IoT and robotics are disrupting the traditional manufacturing process as we know them. This transitional shift to digitisation and automation is what everyone is calling the ‘Industry 4.0’ era.

IoT, being one of the most important aspects of cyber security Industry 4.0 for India, is expected to capture more than 22 per cent share in the global IoT market in the coming few years.

Cyber security experts all over the world are concerned about the implications of Industry 4.0. Digitally connected industries are more vulnerable to attackers who are looking to exploit resources and data. The lack of effective cyber security measures within IoT-enabled production environments is posing a serious threat to the future of cyber security in the world and India.

Cyber security challenges for IoT in the Industry 4.0 era

Smart factories and supply chains are connected via Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) that makes use of IP addresses to connect and communicate within and outside the production line. Internet-connected devices without proper cyber security measures in place are always vulnerable to unauthorised access by hackers. Fundamentally, these smart factories face the following challenges when it comes to cyber security:

  • Malware intrusions: Though many industries use a basic firewall and antivirus, this approach is not enough for protecting an automation system from malware attacks. Intruders can leverage vulnerabilities to get into automation and production systems and turnaround the entire production cycle, creating a mess. It is better to use advanced level cyber security measures like Common Internet File System Integrity Monitoring. Such systems provide an additional layer of security and protection by alerting about unauthorised changes to system files essential for process automation.
  • Modifications to firmware: Hackers nowadays are proficient in creating alternate versions of firmware which can be infused into an IoT system to create security loopholes or to crash the entire network. As an IoT network includes several devices with least protection, using this method to cripple the whole factory is becoming quite common.

To deal with such a scenario, modern IT teams should scrutinise every firmware and driver update before installing it into the network. Also, using a user-centric restriction & access system, disabling USB ports on critical systems and restricting unauthorised network access is a good way to avoid such kind of a cyber security issue.

  • BYOD concerns: There has been increasing euphoria in corporate circles around Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) culture. Employees are encouraged to bring their own devices like laptops and desktop systems in a bid to make them more comfortable. The premise is that when an employee is more comfortable, he is more inclined to work better and be more productive. Additionally, BYOD culture saves massive capital investment in purchasing new terminals, laptops and mobile devices. However, this can be a great security risk. Using non-scrutinised systems on an IoT network can pose a serious security threat to the entire workflow. If a system is not adequately secured, it can serve as an entry point for potential hackers and disrupters, corrupting the entire system. It’s always better to have a separate firewall for such devices which are being plugged into a factory’s network.
  • Real-time encryption: Production system without real-time encryption at hardware level is more vulnerable in this connected world. To make IoT networks secure, the need of the hour is to encrypt all the information that is exchanged between the network at the granular level. Entry of wrong and malicious data can lead to serious consequences like reduced production or a complete shutdown. The need of the hour is to build smart encryption solutions that adapt according to the growing production needs by learning to optimise operations and encrypt data in real-time, every time.

Adopting a top-down approach for better cyber security measures

There is a greater need for making industry 4.0 compliant with acceptable cyber security standards. Using standard approaches to cyber security is not enough in a network with several hundred devices and systems.

A multi-layered approach should be adopted that includes implementation of a reference architecture for digital transformation of an industry:

  • Begin with strategic planning: All digital transformation projects powered by IoT technology should start on the top level. Here, important decisions should be taken regarding policies, strategy, guidelines and directives for the entire network and enterprise.
  • Move ahead with data security: Once the top-level defines everything, the focus should shift to the data processing layer with an intention to secure critical business data. To ensure data security, a detailed data security strategy must be devised keeping future growth requirements and vulnerabilities in mind. It is essential to stay flexible at this step as the threats also advance with each passing day.
  • Design technology infrastructure: After completion of the strategic planning process, technology infrastructure and systems must be designed keeping the functionality and security needs in mind. Choosing the best vendor for equipment is an important part of this approach. At the same time, such an approach ensures that risks due to third-party vulnerabilities are identified beforehand.
  • Focus on network design: Once this reference architecture is complete, security architects can prepare the network designs based on the layered requirements. This consistent approach ensures all the business requirements are addressed without compromising on security.

A structured approach to cyber security for Industry 4.0 ensures that enterprises are capable of handling data breach and security concerns. Not only will this improve efficiency within the factories but also eliminate chances of large-scale threats which can cripple the global economy.

Khushhal Kaushik is the Founder and CEO of  Lisianthus Tech.

About the Author: Khushhal Kaushik