Safety and Security: Interconnected Components of the Smart Factory

Megan Nichols
Illustration: © IoT For All

Maintaining organization, client and employee data safety is a challenge. Smart technology brings functionality that helps processes run more smoothly. Nevertheless, all collected data is useless without the right approach to safety and security.

Below, you’ll discover five common safety and security risks and how to remediate them.

5 Smart Factory Security Risks

1. Map Organizational Data Paths

The first step to mapping the organizational data path is understanding how information in your factory flows from one place to another. This process involves identifying all the types of data at play, the routes available to enter systems, the points at which data can exit and where it is at rest, such as on-site servers.

Entry and exit points are places in the virtual-physical infrastructure where data is generated or accessed. Some examples include, but are not limited to employee workstations and HVAC systems that gather temperature data.

Mapping should include details such as who has physical access to each node along the network. Are workstations tagged and custody documents signed if they need to be moved or repaired? If there are on-site or server closets, is access to these areas controlled?

Data is a resource. It deserves due diligence, clear standards for handling/custody and high levels of protection.

2. Isolate Factory Networks

The principle beauty of IIoT is the ability to tether together elements of the physical and digital realms.

Naturally, this interconnectedness is one of the reasons why IoT has such a vast threat surface. Proper data safety demands that experts build IoT infrastructure on separate networks with independent access controls than the rest of the factory’s IT infrastructure.

This step is critical for factories who don’t want their growing IoT network to serve as leverage for unexpected guests and hackers.

3. Vet Third-Party Partners

Target provided one of the most famous and instructive examples of IoT gone awry in business. In 2014, the company claimed that 55,000 internet-connected heating and cooling systems, some of which were located in the Sochi Olympic arena, were vulnerable to outside intrusion and data breaches.

Factories and distribution centers rely on climate control to maintain productive and reasonably comfortable environments for workers. However, even the smartest factories can expose critical business data if they partner with vendors that don’t take cybersecurity seriously.

Decision-makers should learn essential security concepts before they implement IoT hardware and software.

4. Identify Weak Points

The future belongs to the API or the Application Programming Interface. This software is a bundle of code that allows IoT and its many components to function in harmony. They provide cross-enterprise data mobility between equipment, data sharing between vendor platforms, direct connections with apps on customers’ smartphones and other functions.

Like each connected sensor and machine, all of these software intersections are potential weak points in the smart factory cybersecurity landscape. They also go unnoticed by those who don’t know what to look for.

APIs and other software features must be designed from the ground up with robust security features. Similar to how you would map the physical routes of data, you can route which pieces of in-house or partner software share data with others.

The risks for not taking API security seriously include exposing your business and customer data, having your communications intercepted and falling victim to distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

5. Develop a Remediation Plan

You can’t always prevent the worst from happening. What you do have control over is how you handle the fallout. Businesses that rely on smart technology owe it to themselves to put a cyber-response plan in place.

The EU recently released the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a set of rules that apply to any business that targets customers within the continent. GDPR requires swift disclosure of data breaches.

Before a problem occurs, learn how to identify the issue, alert affected parties and return operations to normal. It’s worth getting ahead of laws like this before they become a global standard.

Smart Factory Security: The Cost of a New Era in Productivity

By 2021, experts predict people will connect more than 25 billion devices to the internet. Technology helps consumers and businesses alike speed up manual tasks and save time. In factories, IoT can improve operational efficiency, optimize energy and resource usage and save money.

With the implementation approach outlined above, companies can keep their smart factory IoT infrastructure running smoothly.

Megan Nichols
Megan Nichols
Megan Ray Nichols is a technical writer and blogger. Her work has been published on sites like Icons of Infrastructure, Industry Week, and Read Write. Keep up with Megan by subscribing to her e...
Megan Ray Nichols is a technical writer and blogger. Her work has been published on sites like Icons of Infrastructure, Industry Week, and Read Write. Keep up with Megan by subscribing to her e...