Why Industry 4.0 Needs Privileged Access Management (PAM).


As we enter the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, the industrial world is more connected than ever. New technologies and unprecedented levels of connectivity are transforming manufacturing, energy, and transportation. While this comes with advantages in terms of productivity and efficiency, it also brings cybersecurity threats.

The more we digitally connect these vital industrial systems, the more we need to protect them.

A changing industry

Traditionally, industrial equipment was operated by individual people and monitored from internal control rooms. Later, processes began to be automated via Industrial Control Systems (ICS) that were disconnected from the business network – meaning people from the outside had little chance of accessing them. SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems are perhaps the most widely used type of ICS. They act like a central nervous system for industrial plants, feeding back data on performance. Because these systems used to be ‘air-locked’ from the internet, little attention was paid to their security. Now, they’re open to the digital world.

A key component of Industry 4.0 is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), which has seen the convergence of Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT). Effectively, the connection of the physical and digital worlds that used to be kept separate. These cyber-physical systems are able to monitor physical processes and create virtual copies of the world around them. They provide real-time monitoring data, can sense and react to changes, and can even predict their own failure. In turn, these capabilities lead to reduced hardware costs and a boost in productivity.

However, by connecting physical processes to the internet, we’ve also opened them up to digital routes of attack. Cybercriminals now have the opportunity to gain control over previously untouchable and highly-sensitive equipment – from anywhere in the world. And the more digital connections, the larger the attack surface. This is an important consideration as we move further into Industry 4.0, as the stakes are high when it comes to industrial breaches.

The risks of a breach

Breaches are serious for any business. They can result in reputational damage, large fines, and even jail time for those responsible. In the industrial sector though, the stakes are even higher. Breaches that impact vital systems in the energy, manufacturing, or transport industries could result in high-impact outages or even physical harm to staff and the public.

Cybercriminals might be pursuing the theft of valuable trade secrets, blueprints, or designs that could be sold to any competitor in the world. There could also be serious legal fallout for businesses that fail to meet data security regulations. One such regulation is the EU’s NIS Directive, which aims to raise the levels of security and resilience of network and information systems. Other notable regulations include Europe’s GDPR, and the NERC (North American Electric Reliability Corporation) CIP (Critical Infrastructure Protection).

What all of these regulations have in common, is an insistence that businesses take firm control over who can access their critical systems. In particular, when it comes to privileged access. A stolen set of privileged admin credentials mean that an attacker has the keys to the kingdom. They can move laterally through all of a business’s most sensitive systems, causing chaos. The most effective and simple form of protection is implementing a Privileged Access Management (PAM) system.

How PAM can help

The distributed, multi-entity and multi-device configuration of Industry 4.0 makes it vulnerable to unauthorized users and access. Industrial organizations often have legacy and custom software that wasn’t built with a connection to the wider internet in mind, so it wasn’t designed with secure architecture. Updating these older systems can be challenging, especially when organizations are reluctant to take them offline and experience downtime.

A PAM system offers the best solution. It can operate on-premise or within the cloud to centralize and automate the process of protecting data from hackers. PAM4OT can provide a constant defense against the risks posed by an external access and cloud-based applications, even within heterogeneous, legacy-and-modern mixed environments. It offers a single point of policy definition and enforcement – regardless of how many connections and endpoints there are. PAM4OT offers a robust, industry-leading Privileged Access Management system that’s simple to install, use, and control. This makes it ideal for the fluid and interdependent Industry 4.0 environment.

Once policies are set, PAM4OT knows the access privileges of every user across the extended Industry 4.0 landscape. Its password vault adds additional reinforcement for internal controls by preventing administrators from changing data management or protection settings locally. With potentially unknown people having physical access to devices on factory floors, this feature is significant. All privileged users and devices communicating internally and externally within the network can be tracked in real-time – giving IT teams true peace of mind.

With so much at stake, it’s vital that the security of Industry 4.0 is taken seriously. We believe that PAM is the best place to start. Get in touch today to learn more about what PAM4OT can offer your business.

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