The rise of industrial automation, robotics and the like has been a hot topic for several decades. We hear the phrase, “Times are changing,” but the truth is, times have already changed — particularly for the manufacturing industry. Many thought leaders claim we’ve entered a new era, calling it Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
What is Industry 4.0?
Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, describes Industry 4.0 as “a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres.” He cites breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, 3–D printing and quantum computing as evidence that we’ve entered the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Industrial automation, considered a hallmark of the Third Industrial Revolution, has seen a steady climb in implementation for years among manufacturers. The real change in recent years has been the connecting of billions of machines, from mobile phones to airplanes, to one another.
The rise of the Internet of Things
This vast system of devices, known as the Internet of Things (IoT), is able to transfer data over a network without human interaction. The IoT is a key indicator of Industry 4.0. With tangible devices communicating over an intangible network, it’s a perfect example of the ways the digital and physical worlds have merged.
For the manufacturing industry, the IoT is changing everything. It allows for more efficient asset management, performance monitoring and operational visibility, as robotic workers and facilities are added to IT networks. However, as the merging of physical and digital assets makes it easier for companies to keep an eye on their operations, it also makes it possible for hackers to access devices remotely.
The manufacturing industry: Ripe for attacks
Just a few years ago, a cyberattack on a steel mill in Germany compromised several critical systems. It caused failures in individual components, including a blast furnace that was unable to be shut down, resulting in physical damage to the facility. This was a warning to manufacturers.
As today’s manufacturers invest in more automation and network connectivity, outdated security systems and overlooked technology gaps can leave a company vulnerable. In addition, plant and industrial control operators have complicated networks to navigate and secure. Until manufacturers match their security capabilities to the evolved level of their networks, they’ll continue to face dangerous breach threats.
The need for intelligent security solutions
Today’s cybercriminals are well-financed and know how to exploit sophisticated tactics to look for weak spots in even the strongest security systems. Organisations cannot afford to make it easy for these attackers.
Securing Industrial Control Systems (ICSs) and things connected to the IoT are critical first steps to bolster defenses. ICS equipment vendors such as Symantec can leverage embedded security within their solutions to protect devices and equipment from increasingly advanced attacks. And solid endpoint protection ensures business IoT devices are impenetrable.