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Navigating Cybersecurity Concerns in Industrial IoT Deployments

by Ashley Lozito
6 min read

In an era dominated by digital transformation, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) represents a huge step forward for advancing industrial automation and smart manufacturing. By leveraging interconnected devices and sensors to enhance efficiency and productivity, companies are saving time, resources, and money. However, the need for robust cybersecurity measures becomes increasingly critical to protect and preserve operational excellence. 

From device hijacking to data breaches and device spoofing, industrial operations face a myriad of potential vulnerabilities. As security breaches continue to make headlines, organizations must adopt proactive measures to address these risks.

According to a new report from HiveMQ and IIoT World, cybersecurity was cited as a primary challenge, with 35% of respondents expressing concerns about implementing new IIoT systems. Understanding best practices and approaches can help development teams ensure the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of critical industrial systems.

Best Practices for IIoT Cybersecurity

The strongest security practices help to maintain control and address risks rapidly. Here are a few ways to proactively eliminate risk in your IIoT systems.

Authentication and Authorization Controls

To establish a secure foundation for your IIoT strategy, prioritize robust authentication and authorization mechanisms. Choose vendors that implement strong authentication for devices and users accessing the IIoT network. This includes secure credential management, multi-factor authentication, and stringent authorization controls. Ensuring only authorized entities have access to critical systems significantly mitigates the risk of unauthorized intrusions.

Data Encryption

Protecting sensitive information is paramount in IIoT environments. Implement end-to-end data encryption, both in transit and at rest, to safeguard information from interception or unauthorized access. This is particularly crucial for securing data transmitted between IoT devices, edge devices, and cloud services. Utilizing encryption protocols adds an additional layer of defense against potential cyber threats.

Hardware Security Modules (HSM)

Ensure the physical security of hardware components by incorporating Hardware Security Modules (HSM). These specialized devices add an extra layer of protection by securing cryptographic keys and sensitive data. By safeguarding the hardware itself, organizations can prevent unauthorized access and tampering, reducing the risk of compromise.

Regular Security Audits

Implement a routine schedule of system security audits to assess the effectiveness of existing cybersecurity measures. Regular evaluations ensure that the IIoT infrastructure aligns with industry standards and compliance requirements. In highly regulated industries, such as healthcare or finance, adherence to security protocols is especially crucial. Security audits help identify vulnerabilities and allow for timely remediation before they can be exploited.

MQTT and other Secure Messaging Protocols

Consider using inherently secure messaging protocols, such as MQTT, for IIoT communication. MQTT's design ensures security by allowing only clients subscribed to specific topics to receive messages. Additionally, the use of Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption enhances the confidentiality and integrity of data in transit, providing a secure communication channel.

Tailored Security Approaches for Deployment

Recognize that the security approach may vary based on the deployment environment. Whether deploying IIoT solutions in the cloud or on-premise, organizations should tailor their security strategies to address specific risks associated with each scenario. Cloud deployments, for instance, come with different challenges compared to on-premise setups, necessitating a nuanced and adaptive cybersecurity approach.

Keeping IIoT Systems Secure

As IIoT continues to reshape industrial landscapes, cybersecurity remains a concern. By implementing robust authentication, encryption, hardware security, regular audits, and tailored security approaches, organizations can fortify their IIoT systems against potential threats. Securing industrial operations not only safeguards critical systems but also establishes trust, ensuring customer loyalty and corporate responsibility in an increasingly interconnected world.

With IIoT deployments up year over year, organizations need to understand the trends, challenges and opportunities of this approach.

Read the new report, “Building Industrial IoT Systems in 2024” to learn what 350 IIoT professionals across multiple industries had to say about their implementations. 

Ashley Lozito

Ashley Lozito is a corporate marketing professional with 15 years of experience amplifying brand stories and helping B2B buyers convert. Her work for high-growth tech organizations has been featured in Forbes, Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, VentureBeat and more. She's helping to build HiveMQ’s brand story and thus helping enterprises leverage IoT, IIoT and MQTT to transform their businesses.

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