If you’re an industrial operator, your world is changing rapidly. Digitalization and the adoption of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices, sensors, and networks are having a profound impact on everything from how you manage your supply chains to the types, quantities, and level of customization of the finished goods and services you produce.
Referred to collectively as Industry 4.0, these digital technologies and low-cost sensors are upending centuries-old business models to help industrial organizations increase efficiency, improve safety, gain visibility into supply chains, and to predict and avert machine failures before they happen. By effectively leveraging these technologies, you can deliver a superior customer experience, reduce costs, and generate greater profits. To reap the benefits of Industry 4.0, however, it is critical that your IIoT networks and devices are secure.
Many moving parts make up the digital value chain enabling these benefits: high-speed wireless data networks and protocols, cloud computing, AI and machine learning, big data, analytics, mobile devices, cheap data storage, faster CPUs—the list is long, and as one technology improves it tends to enable yet more innovation in other areas.
As with past technological and industrial advancements such as robotics and automation, operators who embrace these technologies are expected, over time, to outperform those who do not. And though digitalization and the IIoT present multiple benefits and new business opportunities, they do come with some risk – specifically, an increased threat of cyberattacks on operational infrastructure and systems.
What Is an IIoT Device?
The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) defines an IIoT device or endpoint as a “component that has computational capabilities and network connectivity.” This can include a lot of things in an industrial setting; from simple temperature sensors to connected pumps and valves to fully functioning, autonomous robots. For the purposes of this paper, we are focusing on the sensors, actuators, and industrial control points that make up the vast majority of IIoT deployments and serve as the foundational elements of most IIoT ecosystems.
While industrial operators have been using these devices in their operations for decades, what’s changing today is the different types and ever-increasing number of these devices being put into operation; the operating systems they run on (and vulnerabilities of each); where they are being used; the use cases to which they are being applied; the increasing connectivity between IIoT devices, controls systems and other IIoT devices; and the fact that the communications networks they use no longer are isolated from the outside world.
Taken together, these various factors can make each IIoT device a potential point of vulnerability attackers can use to infiltrate your operational systems. Granted, a temperature or vibration sensor doing little more than reporting back to a control system via a secure gateway that prohibits bidirectional communications is much less of a threat to you than an unpatched actuator connected to the control system of a chemical plant. But even these types of sensors are getting smarter and more powerful all the time. As their capabilities increase, so will the number of places where they will be deployed.
Over the next five years the adoption of IIoT devices, platforms, and applications is predicted to be significant. Growth estimates vary widely because of the many use cases, different definitions of what IIoT is, and the verticals into which IIoT devices and applications can be applied. Studies have placed the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) anywhere between 8% and 18% through 2024. The dollar value estimates of these markets are in the tens to hundreds of billions.