In the last decade, the world has witnessed the rapid evolution of the Internet of Things. While this technology has become pronounced in powering smart homes, outdoor surveillance and smart lighting, it is becoming increasingly pervasive in industrial spaces.

Although there are plenty of use cases for industrial IoT solutions, there are security risks associated with the technology.

Why IIoT security is important

Understanding the implication of the security vulnerabilities inherent in IIoT solutions sets every organization on the right path toward applying some countermeasures. Depending on the scale of application in an organization, a security breach in an IIoT environment could lead to the loss of classified or company-sensitive data like product manufacturing blueprints or business-critical equipment.

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For instance, a security breach could result in the loss of shipment tracking signals, leading to a disruption of logistics activities. Similarly, if a hacker gains access to an organization’s manufacturing network, it becomes easy to tamper with the settings of the manufacturing machines, which could compromise the quality of your products.

Top 6 industrial IoT security risks

Data siphoning

The transmission of information by endpoint devices can be intercepted via an eavesdropping attack. What the hacker does here is eavesdrop on your network traffic from the endpoint device to gain access to protected information.

This type of risk can have devastating consequences, especially when the data being transmitted by your endpoint devices are sensitive. The industries most targeted by this type of IoT attack are the health, security and aerospace industries. To avoid this type of security risk, your organization must have a security policy ensuring that all transmitted data is adequately encrypted using the best encryption software.

Device hijacking

Device hijacking is one of the common security challenges of IIoT. It can occur when the IoT sensor or endpoint is hijacked. This can lead to serious data breaches depending on the intelligence of the sensors as well as the number of devices the sensors are connected to.

Sensor breaches or hijacks can easily expose your sensors to malware, enabling the hacker to have control of the endpoint device. With this level of control, hackers can run the manufacturing processes as they wish.

This IIoT security risk can be forestalled by regularly updating your hardware and software components. You can also mitigate this risk by deploying a hardware-based VPN solution, which is more compatible with legacy systems and helps secure data and IoT devices.

Distributed denial-of-service

An organization’s endpoint devices can be flooded with overwhelming traffic through its networks to the point where the endpoints cannot handle the workload. This type of security risk is known as a distributed denial-of-service attack.

For example, when an industrial thermostat is connected to an insecure internet, a coordinated DDoS attack on the entire system could lead to system downtime. One of the best ways to avoid this type of IIoT risk is to shield your internet connection with a firewall.

Device spoofing attack

In IIoT, a device spoofing attack happens when the attackers disguise themselves as a trusted device to send information between an organization’s centralized network and the IIoT endpoint device.

For instance, an attacker can pretend to be a trusted IoT sensor to send back false information that could alter an organization’s manufacturing process. However, this threat can be managed using a hardware-based security solution.

Physical device theft

IIoT deals with many physical endpoint devices that can be stolen if not protected from prying eyes. This situation can pose a security risk to any organization if these devices are used to store sensitive information.

Organizations with endpoint devices in great use can make arrangements to ensure that these devices are protected, but storing critical data in them can still raise safety concerns due to the growing number of endpoint attacks.

For organizations to minimize the risk associated with device theft, it’s expedient to avoid storing sensitive information on endpoint devices. Instead, they should use cloud-based infrastructure to store critical information.

Data breaches through legacy systems

The growing application of IoT in industries has made it easier for attackers to find loopholes to breach organizational data. IoT devices often share the same internet connection with other systems in an organization, making it simple for attackers to use them as a point of illegal access to other resources. This lack of network segmentation can be deadly, as one successful attack on an IoT device can open the door to attackers to breach sensitive information or data.

This risk involves an attacker using an IIoT device as the access point to the central network where important and sensitive data is stored. In addition, due to the presence of insecure legacy technologies in many industries, hackers can target larger corporate networks for data breach operations using these legacy systems.

To protect your IoT-powered enterprise from data breaches, it’s important to secure the devices with a hardware-based VPN technology and implement a real-time monitoring solution that will continuously analyze and report the behavior of your connected devices.

Further reading

If you’re working toward implementing IIoT within your enterprise, selecting the right software is critical. There are hundreds of IIoT platforms and each one is slightly different from the next, so how do you choose? This article, including links to TechRepublic Premium resources, can help.

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