Cybersecurity CYE
Cybersecurity Europe

Beacon: Non-Digital Industries Need to Assess Cyber Security Risk with Onset of Industry 4.0

Whilst the rise of smart machinery, known as Industry 4.0, continues to connect the digital world with manufacturing, revolutionising modern supply chains, its developments have left many industries with concerning gaps in their cybersecurity measures.

Kirat Singh, CEO and CO-Founder of Beacon Platform Inc
Kirat Singh

Industry 4.0 and its impact on how we stay safe online is an area that’s expanded upon extensively through this guest post for The Fintech Times. Here Kirat Singh, CEO and CO-Founder of Beacon Platform Inc, considers how its advent will impact various industries, and how said industries can utilise Industry 4.0 to streamline their services whilst staying secure. 

Singh has had a long career as one of Wall Street’s premier technologists. Prior to co-founding Beacon, Singh spent four years launching and delivering the Quartz project at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which is now used by more than five thousand developers across the bank.

Before that, he launched and delivered the Athena project at JPMorgan with Dr. Higgins, and spent eight years at Goldman Sachs building the SecDB platform used across the firm. With Beacon, Singh and his team have built a cloud-native quant and analytics platform designed to supercharge developer productivity and give businesses and their developers the flexibility and scale they need to gain a competitive edge.

As organisations and governments around the world are increasingly vulnerable to cyber threats and continue to get hacked, it might feel like we’re reading or hearing about cybersecurity in the news every day.

With the proliferation of digitised industries, it’s not surprising that threats continue to escalate in a digital way. However, there are many industries that have not yet fully embraced digitisation and as a result, are facing disruption and heightened cyber security risks as they slowly begin to introduce technology to their business model.

The “digital disruption” has reshaped the business world across a spectrum of industries. It would be challenging to find a company today that hasn’t adapted to some extent. That said, some sectors have seen more change than others. Some industries, like technology and media, are obvious hubs of innovation. But more traditional industries are having to adjust their current practices to keep pace with demand, satisfy new expectations and retain customers.

The increased connectivity of smart machinery, a shift known as Industry 4.0, raises the stakes. Industry 4.0 heralds a new age of connected, smart manufacturing, responsive supply networks, and tailored products and services. Through its use of smart, autonomous technologies, Industry 4.0 strives to marry the digital world with physical action to drive smart factories and enable advanced manufacturing. But while it plans to enhance digital capabilities throughout the manufacturing and supply chain processes and drive revolutionary changes to connected devices, it also brings with it new cyber risks for which the industry is unprepared.

Developing a fully integrated strategic approach to cyber risk is fundamental to businesses who are marrying operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT)—the very force driving Industry 4.0.

As threat vectors radically expand with the advent of Industry 4.0, new risks should be considered and addressed. Put simply, the challenge of implementing a secure, vigilant, and resilient cyber risk strategy is different in the age of Industry 4.0. When supply chains, factories, customers, and operations are connected, the risks posed by cyberthreats become all the greater and potentially farther reaching.

Manufacturing and supply chains are not the only industries at risk. All traditionally non-digital industries are potentially at risk as they introduce digitisation. If we look at the commodities industry, as another example, it has also been the victim of cyber security threats, with proof points showing with the likes of the Colonial Pipeline hack last year.

From an operational perspective, modern industrial control system (ICS) environments allow engineers to deploy unmanned sites while maintaining high efficiency and resource control. They do so by using connected systems such as enterprise resource planning, manufacturing execution, and supervisory control and data acquisition systems. These connected systems can often streamline processes and make things easier and more efficient, and they have continued to evolve as systems have become more automated and autonomous.

From a security perspective, the increased networking and usage of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products in ICS introduces a variety of exposure points that could be abused by threat actors. In contrast to generic IT where the focus is the information, ICS security focuses on the industrial process. Therefore, the targets in the smart factory primarily focus on the availability and integrity of the physical process rather than confidentiality of information, as with traditional cyber risk.

Notably, however, while the basics of cyberattacks remain the same, the methods of delivering the attack become more advanced. Indeed, as Industry 4.0 connectivity continues to proliferate across not only the digital sphere but also the physical world, the potential impacts of these attacks on production, customers, manufacturers, and the products themselves may grow broader and potentially more significant.

The global shift to digital services and technologies has impacted all sectors, bringing substantial improvements in some cases. As the adoption of these resources continues to climb, more use cases will emerge, leading to further innovation.

Information and communication technology (ICT) is supplying the devices, software, and services that are fueling the shift, but growth could be even bigger than that, though, as the lagging sectors grasp the digitisation idea.

The energy industry has faced increasing pressure to change as environmental issues have become more prominent. Digital transformation has proved critical to this transition for both renewables and fossil fuel companies. Digital technologies help utilities improve service, reduce their carbon footprint and prevent disruptions.

IoT devices like smart transformers give more insight into grid operations. If something happens that threatens power in one sector, these sensors will let utilities know in real-time. Automation features can take these quick reactions a step further, automatically adjusting delivery based on changes in demand.

Digital disruption on the consumers’ end has transformed energy, too. Smart home devices save power and money by adapting to changing conditions and use patterns in real-time. As more people embrace these technologies, energy waste will fall.

However, much like the energy industry and even consumer off-the-shelf devices like the smart home devices continue to leverage ubiquitous computing, the concept of computing on any device, from anywhere, and in any format. This poses a true risk for cyber security threats and it grows without the proper strategy in place. Many of these smart devices, driving digital transformation in our homes as well as traditionally non-digital industries become vulnerable when updates to security measures are not prioritised.

Having a “bulletproof” cyber security plan means that it needs to be integrated, and part of that is ensuring that the business model includes the right infrastructure that will allow continued connectivity and the ability to control physical devices and digital information with efficiency. Reinforcing device upgrades through a platform that allows for customisation and advanced levels of security is how traditionally non-digital industries will successfully operate as they introduce technology into their business model. And in today’s world, the options are to digitise or forever hold your peace.


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