Cybersecurity: Smart at Home, Smart at Work

Interconnected technologies benefit our everyday: at home, and at the workplace. However, the accompanying risks of the IoT, intelligent automation, and the overriding process of digitization are impossible to eradicate. Whether you operate a Smart Home or a Smart Factory – we draw from real-life cases to assist in fortifying your processes.

Many will still hark back to Stanley Kubrick’s unsettling dystopian masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey whenever the words ‘artificial intelligence’ are uttered. You may draw similarities between HAL 9000 and likes of Alexa, Siri, and our Google Assistants that many of us rely on today. However, it’s unlikely that technology itself will turn against us in the same way!

It’s the activity of humans that present the biggest threat. With that being the case, we should all embrace a solid cybersecurity strategy to defend ourselves against potential intrusion and other cyber-related attacks.

Your Smart Home: A Shelter from the Cyber-storm?

To secure a Smart Home means much more than covering your front-facing camera on your smart TV or phone. There are around 2.7 billion smart phone users worldwide. However, this number is dwarfed by 17 billion interconnected devices that are used to make our homes smarter, more efficient, and easier to operate. But a growing IoT puts your privacy and security in jeopardy.

At the recent RSA Conference in San Francisco, researchers explained the risks of automated and complex IoT environments (CIEs) at home. In a corresponding paper from some of the event contributors, they detailed how the automation platform between devices is where the biggest risks lie. An automation platform is described as the tissue that binds devices together. For example, how your smart-locked front door is unlocked as your smart phone joins the home Wi-Fi router. Imagine that this connection is corrupted, allowing cyber-attackers to integrate their own smart devices.

Unfortunately, there is no blanket solution to protect your Smart Home from data breaches and hijacks. Investment in fraud monitoring and identity protection will ensure that your personal and financial information is monitored for unusual activity. Wireless networks can also be fortified by disabling guest access and by assigning them obscure passwords that would be impossible to guess. What’s more, assigning a firewall can limit successful probing attempts.

From Home to Factory

So, we’ve discovered that Smart Homes are frighteningly vulnerable to certain security issues. To mitigate the risks, two things are necessary – the first of these is awareness. It could be that some are taking a back seat when it comes to cybersecurity. This is because they are unaware of what could happen in the worst instance. It’s also important to utilize the right tools, implement security measures, and constantly ensure they are sufficient.

However, the chances are, Smart Home owners don’t do any of that.

But why not? Perhaps it’s because they presume that they will never be targeted. What’s more the consequences of an attack on a Smart Home are mild when compared with Smart Factories. The thought of someone listening in on your private conversations is scary – but it does not put your life or your bank balance at risk. In Smart Factories, an attacker can target the company. Today’s cyberattacks are individualized, tailor-made. As you will also discover, cyberattacks have grown exponentially in the era of digital enterprises. The consequences of a successful attack are much more severe than those that can take place at home.

Industry 4.0: Friend or Foe?

In the Smart Factory, the Internet of Things (IoT) is being utilized to great effect to aid productivity, improve environmental impact, and optimize the supply chain. That being said, the threat of invasion will continue to rise unless operators and manufacturers do not adjust their cybersecurity measures accordingly.

Cyber attackers could potentially infiltrate your Smart Factory’s connected systems. Should they be successful, your plant then becomes vulnerable to a host of damages. Data is exposed and hijacked control systems can lead to a breakdown in machinery. A chilling thought: damage related to global cybercrime is projected to hit $6 trillion by 2021.

Back in 2014, an unfortunate attack on a German steel mill’s control system corrupted the security settings in a blast furnace. The machine was unable to cool down properly after use, which caused serious damage to the plant’s infrastructure. Obviously, these kinds of attacks can halt production and result in a huge loss for companies. But an even more alarming concern is that the physical safety of staff is put at risk.

Lessons learned

Plant operators can learn from others’ mistakes and misfortunes, even from outside of the industrial realm. US retailer Target’s CRM system was hacked in 2013, which left the personal information of around 70 million people exposed, including credit and debit card information. Attackers gained access through the operational system of Target’s heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) supplier. They were then able to gain remote access to Target’s HVAC system, which can be accessed without a password. From there, they leapfrog into the retailer’s payment system. This type of attack is known as an exploitation of vulnerability. Service providers are urged to secure their own networks, in order to protect those their clients.

Don’t rest assured, get secured

As long as interconnected devices are utilized at home and in the Smart Factory, the threat of invasion remains. Infiltrators will look to unearth the treasure trove of data that lies within connected systems. However, unlike Smart Home owners, plant managers today can opt for solutions based on ‘security by design’ principles. But what does that mean?

Protection against cybersecurity and functional safety risks are of equal importance. Plant owners that implement a safety instrumented system (SIS) with automation security built right into its core are in the best position to defend against both physical and digital threats. A dedicated operating system such as this is developed for safety-oriented applications that run off HIMA’s autonomous SIS controllers. This encompasses all safety programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and doesn’t require any third-party software packages or built-in back doors.

Some smart factory owners choose to allocate a fixed budget for cybersecurity and employ third-party experts to perform audits which can identify and eliminate any potential weaknesses in SISs before they even become a threat.

So, how about you? Do you know what’s more secure: your home or your factory? And are you aware of the possible consequences?