Philip Cao

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Security Operating Platform for Smart Manufacturing and Industry 4.0

3 min read

Information technology is transforming manufacturing by digitizing virtually every step of the modern manufacturing process – a trend referred to as “smart manufacturing” in the United States and “Industry 4.0” in Europe.

Cloud computing, together with technologies such as 5G wireless, smart sensors, high-performance computing (HPC), computer-aided design, engineering and the industrial internet of things, is essential to the smart manufacturing revolution.

Applications in the cloud will impact virtually every aspect of modern manufacturing. At the enterprise level, cloud computing will impact how companies manage their operations, from enterprise resource planning (ERP) and financial management to data analytics and workforce training. The cloud will also prove integral to how manufacturers integrate themselves into industrial supply chains. At the manufactured-product level, cloud computing has begun to transform everything from how products themselves are researched, designed and developed to how they are fabricated and manufactured, and finally, how they are used by customers in the field.

However, as with any change in working practices, there are also some associated risks that must not be ignored.

With smart manufacturing, terminals will be embedded with IoT, which ultimately means that they will be vulnerable to cyberattacks. While this added connectivity helps improve productivity, it is also a weak point in the network which cybercriminals can take advantage of.

Cybercriminals understand the sensitivity of these networks and are also fully aware of the destructive consequences a successful attack can have – lost revenues/profit, brand damage, or a devastating threat to people and assets.

It is therefore imperative that the manufacturing industry take steps to improve security and ensure it is not exposing its systems to cybercriminals.

One of the key challenges with cybersecurity within manufacturing is that attacks are extremely difficult to identify in operational technology (OT) environments. Consider a plant where, for an unknown reason, a certain SCADA component suddenly stops working. Chances are that “malicious activity is going on,” would not be the first consideration when trying to work out what has gone wrong. In 9 out of 10 cases, the root cause is likely to be benign. But what about that one time when there is a more suspicious root cause?

Monitoring services exist for OT environments, but they have limited visibility and offer only correlated, contextual information due to the necessity for network zones, or segmentation. This means that sensors need to be placed at several different layers within the network to monitor end-to-end activity. Another contributing factor is complexity, even if network traffic is being captured. When systems go down, many organizations are completely focused on getting them up and running again rather than mining big data sets to determine categorically what went wrong.

As organizations adopt smart manufacturing/Industry 4.0 working practices, cybersecurity is increasingly paramount. With this in mind, learn how to protect yourself against sophisticated cyberattacks with Palo Alto Networks Security Operating Platform.

[Palo Alto Networks Research Center]

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