In the current COVID-19 situation, industries are heavily adopting automation. This is the reason why industrial automation security needs to have a renewed focus
As industrial organizations struggle with COVID-19 fallout, automation is almost reborn – becoming the hottest topic of discussion. But, the acceleration of automation should be supported by adequate security measures to combat unforeseen consequences.
Mission-critical systems in industries have traditionally relied on human supervision to meet security needs. But, this is undoubtedly changing. Automated systems are beyond human capacity to spot machine problems and security lapses.
Being lax regarding industrial automation security measures can have very dangerous implications. For instance, hobbyist electronics may make automating industrial machinery easy, but such products provide cyber attackers with a familiar target. Another example is the plug-and-play automation solutions that are never built with security at the forefront – opening up the door for a vast amount of vulnerabilities.
AI Deployments Should be Handled with Care
Hastily deploying artificial intelligence (AI) also exposes enterprises to multiple risks. Data science experts and industrial operators are not available during the COVID-19 quarantines, heightening the chances of errors creeping into the AI algorithms.
Ensuring discreet remote access granting
The expansion of remote access in industrial environments for software-driven automation or AI workloads is another significant risk. Such access should only be granted very discreetly after a proper background check. Remote operations have also heightened the risk of phishing attacks using social engineering. Such an attack could quickly identify employees having a higher likelihood of less secure credentials – their credentials are exploited to get access to the industry’s control system environments through the increasingly accessible remote gateways.
Evaluate Sector-wise Threats
Companies are in a rush to deploy automation, but risks are high as remote access won’t ever be uniform across the industrial sector. Critical infrastructures such as oil refineries, nuclear power plants, and chemical plants are less likely to get impacted by working restriction due to the social-distancing norms.
Ultimately, before embracing automation or other technologies, each organization needs to evaluate the risks and rewards of their digitization strategies. The risk of moving slowly In this current COVID-19 situation can impose massive threats to the longevity of the business. While rushing too fast for deployment, it will create its own set of security risks.
Diverse opinions exist on how much to automate, what to automate, and when to automate. But, honestly, it entirely depends on each firm’s individual need and the capacity to handle it. Physical assets are ultimately going digital. Not embracing automation woven around these, along with the adequate digital process, will end up in creating an imbalanced, inefficient digital operating model.
To survive the crisis, firms need to consider strategies to deploy automation to match up the required level of security. Technologies such as AI, automation, and remote access can enable industrial organizations to continue business operations with the least required efforts. But, they should only deploy the technologies when they are sure of handling them securely and cautiously. Security should remain a functional requirement as industries use technologies to their rescue.