Industry 4.0 security entails more than cybersecurity

  • Bridge News

    26 August 2021

La sécurité de l’industrie 4.0 ne se cantonne pas qu’à la cybersécurité

Digital technologies are evolving much faster today than in the past, and industrial companies sometimes struggle to keep pace with the changes. Equipment suppliers and manufacturers need to deliver solutions that incorporate more than just operational performance requirements. Indeed, today’s “new industry”, in order to optimise communication and data exploitation, is increasing the interconnections between production sites and partners, thus exposing itself to information security risks that are inherent to the digital economy. This implies rethinking production-plant security, since the security of Industry 4.0 is not simply an issue of cybersecurity, it has to be taken as a whole.

Industry 4.0: a time paradigm

In a highly competitive context, continuous improvement is no longer enough to guarantee industrial survival. Manufacturers must reduce costs while ramping up production rates, increasing the flexibility of their production line and tools, and guaranteeing a minimum product quality. And all this while diversifying their product range! They therefore need to make their processes more agile. This requires interlinking all the production stages, without forgetting the importance of the human factor. It also involves collective management, which encourages and empowers everyone to play an active role. Furthermore, secure, reliable data are required to ensure the long-term viability of the company’s operations. They must be shared instantaneously, as they become available, with all the stakeholders involved, so as to streamline operations.

A security strategy that needs to be re-designed

Given such a dynamic context, in which manufacturers can no longer afford to interrupt production and where everything is interlinked, digital transformation is redefining the conventional approach to security. To remain responsive and meet increasingly short production lead-times, manufacturers need to upgrade their previous, outmoded requirements. To effectively exploit data requires not only identifying them but also ensuring their availability, integrity and security. Contrary to popular belief though, this is not simply a matter of “cybersecurity”.

As every industrial company is well aware, security is a cross-cutting, comprehensive process that involves every aspect and layer of the company, including the management of user profiles, access to resources and software applications (taking into account any obsolescence and disparity in the technologies used) as well as environmental threats and user training. Because of the many risks and stakes, the basic aim is to avoid down time due to breakdowns and malfunctions and to secure software. This also requires defining security rules in maintenance contracts. On top of this, it is important to ensure that the production lines, and the information and data on which they depend, are safe and secure for people and the environment.

Protecting industrial assets

To ensure adequate protection, it is essential to set up a defence system and to monitor the level of security of facilities and resources on a daily basis, using suitable methods and tools. For example, risks have to be assessed by identifying potential security breaches and threats. For the same reasons, the network should be divided up into sub-networks to reduce the risk of widespread attacks and to manage user access rights according to their respective user profiles. A user with administrator-level rights over machines and data therefore becomes a potential weak point in the security system and a prime target for cyber-attacks.

Furthermore, Industry 4.0 gives pride of place to innovative digital transformation projects. These are often developed using Agile processes. However, this iterative, incremental and adaptive development method implies taking shortcuts in the production stages, with the risk of potential security loopholes. These can be found in both software code and in the hardware architecture. Once the application has been deployed (after the manufacturing stage), it is very often too late to reintegrate the security components, either because the architecture has not been designed for it, or because the technology chosen had flaws. This is where the concept of “security by design” comes into play.

The traditional approach to security no longer addresses all the challenges of the industrial world. Many industrial companies tend to believe that their security management system will not improve their operational efficiency. This is a misperception, since “good security management” will ensure the availability and efficiency of the company’s systems throughout their operational life-cycle. This is why security strategies need to be re-designed and tailored to their new environment while addressing the protection issues inherent to the performance levels of Industry 4.0.


cybersecurity industry 4.0 security