Automated manufacturing is a hot topic lately, and it’s a trend that is likely to continue. The benefits of this technology are marked: lower costs, higher efficiency and greater productivity, but with any new technology, they come with some marked risks. One major issue is cybersecurity, with competitors, governments, and rogue hackers all posing potential threats to networked infrastructure. Gone are the days when to sabotage a competitor you’d have to physically break into their factory and meddle with their machines. Now, a denial of service attack, a virus, or a worm can cause damage without the attacker even having to be in the same country. However, it’s possible that some of the security issues with the Internet of Things (IoT) are overrated.
Internet of Vulnerable Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the catch-all term used for physical objects that can be networked together. Unfortunately, as we all know, network security isn’t always a given. One way to decide the correct level of security for your device is to classify it into one of four types depending on what it’s used for, according to president and co-founder of Icon Labs, Alan Grau.
The different classes that Grau proposes are as follows:
- Class 1: small near-field communication devices like remote telemetry and sensors
- Class 2: small, low-cost devices using real-time operating systems such as medical devices and low-end network devices, often using wi-fi or cellular connections
- Class 3: large and more expensive industrial and medical devices like robotics and smart cars, using wi-fi and Ethernet connections
- Class 4: large devices with embedded operating systems like high-end medical and military devices
Once your device is classified, it’s easier to decide on a level of security for particular segments of your network rather than securing everything at once.
Deciding on an acceptable level of risk for your network segments is the next step. What vulnerabilities could a hacker exploit to affect your network? What would the consequences be? Proven risk-mitigating strategies that implement industry standards are essential here.
Types of Attacks
When we discuss cyberattacks, what exactly are we talking about? A well-known example is the Stuxnet worm, which was designed to attack programmable logic controllers (PLCs). These controllers govern the automation of industrial processes, so when they’re infected the whole system shuts down, which can cause widespread damage—the worm was responsible for ruining almost one fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges. Distributed denial of service attacks are also common, and if your manufacturing plant is connected to the internet and unsecured, it’s not impossible that a dedicated DDOS attack could cause huge problems.
As companies cast about for solutions to their vulnerability issues, there are many possibilities to consider. Because of the varied nature of the threat, a potential solution that is gaining some traction seems somewhat unconventional at first: increasing the diversity of the workforce. For example, only 10 per cent of security professionals are women, for reasons ranging from poor retention because of a lack of promotions to a hostile working environment.
Further, just 7 percent of the computer security workforce is black and only 5 per cent is Latinx. At first glance this might not seem to have much to do with security — but Andrea Little Limbago, chief social scientist at the cybersecurity firm Endgame, claims that a more diverse security team will be more adept at noticing flaws that a more homogeneous team might miss.
With the proliferation of automation and the industrial IoT, it’s going to be more crucial than ever that people have the right skills to deal with the changing way we will work in the future. And automation security experts are going to be highly sought after as the world becomes even more networked. Online technology courses are a great way for people to update their skills and position themselves for career advancement as we move to a more automated future, whether as a PLC programmer or an Electronics Technician. For example, George Brown College offers several courses in these and other fields, and awards a certificate of completion to allow you to show off your skills to potential employers.