3 quick tips and best practices for better IIoT security

June 11, 20193 minute read

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It’s no secret by now that IIoT is a pretty powerful platform for innovation. It’s may also come as no surprise that IIoT security risks represent considerable threats to manufacturing IT. You know what’s not so obvious? How to manage those risks.

But stay tuned—we’ve got some quick tips on IIoT security that you can implement today.

Prioritize user control over device control

When it comes to IoT in manufacturing, you need to shift your security paradigm a bit. For example, the vulnerability of data collected by smart sensors probably isn’t your greatest concern. Your business will likely survive if the temperature of your factory floor gets leaked to the public, but if an unauthorized party were to gain control of your thermostats, they could cause major operational problems. Sensors (and the attached infrastructure) deserve the greatest share of your attention. As such, your first priority should center on access control.

As you evaluate your IIoT network, you’ll want to ensure that your access control strategy is based on identity. If you’re still working at the device level, you may find the prospect of managing access of each individual device daunting—doubly so if your colleagues have named all your devices after obscure Battlestar Galactica references like we have.

User-driven access control makes IIoT security more manageable and more scalable. As we move further into the era of automation, you’ll probably have fewer IIoT users than devices. From a logistical standpoint, it makes sense to focus your efforts on the group with fewer entities.

Encrypt everything

I know, I know. We just finished saying that data shouldn’t necessarily be the focus of your IIoT security strategy, but locking up your data (sensitive or otherwise) is still a good practice for a few reasons:

  • There’s always a chance that non-sensitive data might become sensitive in the future. Don’t let complacency come back to bite you.
  • Using modern encryption protocols for the communication lines that connect your army of devices can help prevent sneaky “man-in-the-middle” attacks.
  • Succeeding with IIoT means executing at scale—more devices collecting more data producing more insights. That said, it’s impossible to know where every bit of data is at any given time. Shielding as much data as possible with strong encryption protocols can give you a nice insurance policy.

In a nutshell, fortune may favor the bold, but prudence can help you keep your job.

Maintain a high-level perspective

If IIoT and IoT in general are all about more, more, more, then your security strategy has to be all about visibility. It can be hard to maintain a view of your IT security landscape, however, if you’re lost in the weeds.

When it comes to IIoT visibility, you’ll want to follow a few foundational principles:

  • Aggregation: The status of individual IIoT devices ought to be aggregated into a single view, not pages of superfluous data.
  • Automation: Don’t take attendance every time you sit down at your desk each morning—you shouldn’t have to go looking for status and security reports at all; they should be delivered regularly in an automated and convenient way.
  • Centralization: Never rely on multiple interfaces to manage your network of devices. You should have one, centralized dashboard to rule your IIoT kingdom.

If you take the time now to properly research, test, and implement centralized IIoT solutions, you can save yourself some headaches down the road. After all, the number of connected devices that your organization relies on is likely only going to grow.

Managing IIoT security can be challenging at first, but these three tips can give you a leg up in handling your hardware. Whether you’re tasked with transforming an uncontrolled gaggle of printers into a secure fleet or implementing new smart instruments, remember these guidelines as you look to simplify your manufacturing IT security responsibilities.

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