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December 04 2018

The major security threats facing Industry 4.0

The smart factory by its nature, is interconnected to many other systems, consequently any extended system is complex and with complexity comes significant increases of unexpected security vulnerabilities.

These are some security threats that Industry 4.0 players need to focus on, and try to mitigate its impact:



1. Enterprise Cyber-Espionage, Confidential Information and Intellectual Property

Industry 4.0 is more vulnerable to cyber-espionage because of the smart and connected business processes. Currently it has been seen the development of well organized groups of cyber-criminal with excellent skills used to targeting specific industries, towards hacking sensitive information and intellectual property. One example of such a group is the Black Vine group, which focuses on industries such as aerospace, energy and healthcare. The problem associated to this phenomenon is not confined to its impact on sales but also include damage to organizational image, loss of know-how and reduced level of competitiveness by the affected organizations. The targeted theft of corporate and product know-how starts to becoming increasingly common, especially in the form of software and functionalities that currently continue to be very easy to copy. In the scope of Industry 4.0 these threats assume even greater importance resulted from the cooperation between different partners in the network.

2. Denial-of-Service

The damage caused by a Denial-of-Service cyberattack can wind up being very costly for a company. Such an attack causes material damage (servers and sensors need to be replaced or put back to normally work; network needs to be reprogramed; systems need to be redesigned) but also operational and financial to cause damage (service interruption, complex protocols for resuming operations, new training for machine operators). In this context, for the industrial sector, DoS attacks are often unforeseeable and very difficult to control.

3. Supply Chain and the Extended Systems

One of the Industry 4.0 features is the ability to connect across organizational environments, which has the potential to make the supply chain more efficient. However, the supply chain systems have inherent security vulnerabilities, which are exploited by attackers. One of the security vulnerabilities starts with the supplier, which is vulnerable to phishing attacks and the stolen of privileged credentials, resulting in mass data exposure. The major vulnerability is in the top of the supply chain, reaching the rest of the organizational processes through its dependent actors. Security awareness, control access through authentication mechanisms, cryptographic processes, and behavioral analysis are the security mechanisms that can help to prevent a supply chain hacking.

4. Smart Security and the Smart Factory

Smart security means preventive security policies, able to mitigate the impact of smart security vulnerabilities exploitation. Additionally, employees need to be conveniently trained with regard to the security requirements and standards.

It is essential, and urgent, that organizations embrace the development of a strategy to deploy and run security compliance processes that Industry 4.0 requires, especially towards reducing the organizational level of exposition as well as to proper manage the mitigation procedure of its impacts.


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