5 Crucial Cyber Security Steps To Take in the IoT Era

cyber security IoT IIoT
(Photo Credit: Augury)

Earlier this month, the US Department of Homeland Security and the FBI issued a joint alert saying that the Russian government targeted the American energy sector with a series of cyber attacks.

The alert specified that over the past two years cyber actors have targeted critical US infrastructure sectors including energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and manufacturing.

At the same time, facilities have only become more connected through the Internet of Things. Given the increase in security concerns, we reached out to Saar Yoskovitz, CEO of the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) company Augury.

Based in New York City and Israel, Augury has predictive maintenance technology for commercial and industrial facilities that listens to HVAC machines, analyzes the data, and can catch anomalies to prevent malfunctions.

Yoskovitz shares what C&I energy managers can do to protect their organizations.

How many organizations in the US have IoT technology in their facilities, and where does this tech fit into their operations?

In the United States, the number of connected devices in the industrial market is expected to rise to nearly 180 million in 2020 from approximately 50 million in 2014.

Facilities are connecting sensors and equipment to the IoT as a means to collect and analyze data. The data collected allows companies like ours help facilities improve equipment reliability, enable efficiency of operations, and detect security anomalies.

What does the trajectory for IoT network connections look like?

The IoT industry is expected to generate up to $11.1 trillion a year in economic value by 2025. We see more and more customers establishing an IoT strategy at an accelerated pace. Companies are beginning to understand the advantages of a connected facility, and are seeking ways to participate in this growing market and reap the benefits in savings.

How big is the cyber security threat, especially around the IoT?

In the past month, news has emerged that Russian hackers infiltrated critical infrastructure in the United States, including energy and water operations. Although the adoption of the IoT may increase the probability of a cyber security threat, plant managers can benefit greatly from a connected network. They will need to create and follow a comprehensive strategy to stay ahead of potentially devastating threats to equipment that is connected to the IoT.

As more companies move their operations to the IoT, it will be vital for them to have security measures in place that detect, analyze, and provide recommendations on a course of action for both operational and cyber-security issues. An important benefit of continuously monitoring the facility is full visibility to the operations. Then, if an external agent interferes with a facility’s controls, this can be identified immediately and remedied.

What specific cyber security steps do you recommend for energy managers?

We have seen that critical infrastructure operators are going beyond standard security measures by also leveraging connected sensors to monitor equipment in real time to optimize network health and security. The IoT is playing a key role in bringing about efficient futures for facilities and although connecting equipment may seem like a risk, it allows companies to enhance business operations, achieve visibility, and increase security over the network.

We recommend the following steps to ensure security from the factory floor to the cloud:

  1. Plan for security as you design the features and functionality of your IoT network. Involve experts to guide you through the process and navigate the different technologies that are available.
  2. Create and follow a security breach plan to deal effectively with an attack and ensure the security of data. Make sure you have a bypass switch that gives you full control of your facility.
  3. Deploy the right hardware and software that can provide security and operational success across an increasingly complex ecosystem. During the process, consider data collection, sensor connectivity, and user access.
  4. Update IoT devices regularly and consider automating or scheduling updates to avoid any preventable breaches down the line. We cannot overstate the importance of this step. Make sure your vendors have regular security updates to their firmware.
  5. Assess devices quarterly to determine effectiveness of security measures and the probability of a security breach.

What are the biggest challenges that could be encountered during these steps, and how can energy managers overcome them?

Budget is the main challenge companies face when securing their IoT network. In a global 2017 industrial IoT survey conducted by Mindbowser in association with The IoT Magazine, 62% of companies said they don’t have the budget to implement an IIoT solution, yet 57% noted that these solutions are important to the future growth of their business.

Energy managers need to:

  • Get company executives on board by demonstrating the ROI that IoT solutions can generate.
  • Identify and adopt the right solution by consulting with a professional because the IIoT is not one-size-fits-all.
  • Pinpoint how adopting a solution will continue to support their customer base.

The 3rd Annual Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference takes place May 15 – 17, 2018 in Denver. Learn more here.

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