Recent news of Russia hacking U.S. critical infrastructure operators, including energy, nuclear, water, aviation and critical manufacturing facilities, means scary times for facility owners and operators. Industrial Internet of Things’ (IIoT) network connections for energy and utilities increased 41 percent in the last year alone. If all those connections are vulnerable, should facilities avoid adopting new IIoT connections? How do you monitor the IIoT for a Russian hack, or any hack, for that matter?
Just as every immunization contains a harmless dose of a pathogen, the IIoT itself can be used to protect against infrastructure hacks. The administrative tool, as it were in this case, is the monitoring devices that gauge real-time network health and security. Such continuous monitoring acts as a facility’s immune system, ferreting out breaches before they become infections. Here is how critical infrastructure operators can leverage the IIoT to prevent future attacks.
Monitor, Notify, Eradicate
In the U.S., industrial device-to-device connections are expected to top nearly 180 million in 2020. While each and every device and connection represents a possibility for increased efficiency and automation, it also presents potential vulnerabilities. However, the benefits to business operations outweigh the exposure to risk with the right security capabilities in place.
With public utility providers rapidly adopting the IIoT, real-time network monitoring and regularly scheduled security updates are imperative to keeping the public safe from the meddling of malicious entities. Because command and control centers within these facilities can be manipulated to make it seem that systems are running normally when they are not, its imperative to use third-party systems with the capacity to remote monitor and notify any type of abnormality in a matter of minutes.
Using the IIoT to Secure Connected Systems
While the IIoT may not be the first line of defense against intruders – rather, that duty belongs to a host of security protocols – the IIoT can help mitigate damage when intruders do manage to break through barriers and affect systems. For example, Bloomberg’s report of recent Russian hacks on U.S. infrastructure notes that one breach affected a nuclear power plant. “While the core of a nuclear generator is heavily protected, a sudden shutdown of the turbine can trigger safety systems,” it notes. “These safety devices are designed to disperse excess heat while the nuclear reaction is halted, but the safety systems themselves may be vulnerable to attack.”
This is precisely the circumstance where the IIoT can step in and assist in keeping systems running and alerting the proper entities when they cease functioning. With advancements in cloud computing power, wifi connectivity, and affordable sensor technologies, the IIoT is increasingly available for businesses to implement continuous diagnostics. With continuous diagnostics, utilities operators have access to a separate system that continually monitors equipment and provides real-time diagnostics. The moment a system goes down, they can know not only that it is down but also have insight into the reason for the down-time.
The Duplicitous Promise of Increased Connectivity
The Internet of Things has forever changed the risk factor of connected systems, yet we can also tap the power of the private sector and its innovation to mitigate the potential for widespread damage. As more companies move their operations to the IIoT, it will be vital for companies to have security measures in place that detect, analyze and provide recommendations on a course of action for both operational and cybersecurity issues.
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