Managing IIoT security -

Managing IIoT security


We've all heard of Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). We know the two are different, because IoT is commonly used for consumer usages and IIoT is used for industrial purposes.

But how does a professional group like the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) actually define the IIoT?

The group see IIoT as a system that connects and integrates operational technology (OT) environments, including industrial control systems (ICS), with enterprise systems, business processes and analytics.

These IIoT systems differ from ICS and OT because they are connected extensively to other systems and people. And they differ from IT systems in that they use sensors and actuators that interact with the physical world, where uncontrolled change can lead to hazardous conditions.

The benefits of IIoT are the ability of sensors or connected devices, as part of a closed-loop system, to collect and analyze data and then do something based on what the data reveals. The very connectivity, however, also grows the risk of attack — and increasingly cyberattacks — by those who may want to bring down the system.

One of the many projects under a Department of Energy (DoE) program to reduce cyber incidents is being driven by Intel, looking at enhanced security for the power system edge.

Since grid edge devices communicate with each other directly and through the cloud, the research is developing security enhancements to emphasize interoperability and provide for real-time situational awareness. 

First this needs to be done in the form of a secure gateway for brownfield, or legacy power system devices, then as an internal field programmable gate array (FPGA) upgrade designed as part of greenfield, or present day, devices.

The goal is to reduce the cyberattack surface in a way that doesn’t impede the normal functioning of the critical energy delivery functions.

Sven Schrecker, chief architect of IoT security solutions at Intel and co-chair of the security working group at the IIC, said that security should not be the sole consideration when designing and deploying devices for IIoT systems, but developers should be thinking more broadly about five overall key factors:

  • safety
  • reliability
  • security
  • privacy
  • resilience

While design engineers might have to implement security elements into a chip, software, or platform, they may not necessarily be aware of how their work fits into their company's bigger-picture security policies. “The security policy must be authored by both the IT team and the OT team together, so that everyone knows what device is allowed to talk to what,” Schrecker said.

Building a chain of trust
A common theme is to establish a security policy and chain of trust from the outset, and then ensure it is maintained through design, development, production and the entire lifecycle of a device. Trust must be built into the device, the network, and the entire supply chain.

Haydn Povey, a board member of the IoT Security Foundation and also CEO and founder of Secure Thingz, said security needs to be addressed at four levels:

  • CxO level
  • security architect
  • development engineer
  • operations manager

The development or design engineers are the ones that need to take the company's security policy. They may also define factors such as how to identify and verify that a product is theirs and how to securely provide software and hardware updates and implement this in chips or software.

The fourth part of the chain is where OEMs are involved in manufacturing products for IIoT networks, or in deployment of those products. Here, the production or operations manager needs to ensure that every electronic component has its own unique identity and can be securely authenticated at every point in the supply chain.

In discussing the lack of a chain of trust in hardware and software, Robert Martin, senior principal engineer at the MITRE Corporation and a steering committee member of the IIC, said, “Connected industrial systems have so many different tech stacks.”

In fact, he cautioned, “A small change in a microprocessor can have an unintended impact on the software running on it. If we recompile the software, run it on a different OS, it will work differently, but no one will be accountable for software failures resulting from the changes.”

He added, “Compare this to the building trade, where you would be penalized for making changes that affected safety — there's regulation, certification. But we just don't have the same regime in software-based technologies.”

>> Continue to page two of this article on our sister site, EE Times: “Designer's guide to IIoT security.”

2 thoughts on “Managing IIoT security

  1. “I reckon that companies that are thinking of implementing an IIOT network in their company would understand the implications of not securing the communications lines properly when doing it! I mean, you're talking about corporate secrets and other sensitiv

    Log in to Reply
  2. “Logically speaking, I don't think any company would go into installing an IIOT system in their company without first doing their homework and research as to just how they can secure the whole communications network. It would be silly to do anything otherw

    Log in to Reply

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.