Cybersecurity + Industry 4.0

16 September, 2019

Cyber final
code, Image 1

Industry 4.0, the industry supertrend, is generating great excitement among manufacturing leaders.  Just about every manufacturing operation can benefit from an Industry 4.0 technology program.  Almost always, Industry 4.0 programs increase the amount of data generation and collection for an operation.  They can use this data to make deep insights into their processes.  As the access to intelligent information increases, businesses can truly understand the best ways to operate. 

With all of this data flowing around though, one of the first questions asked about Industry 4.0 is “what about security?”  This is a very valid question, as the manufacturing sector is one of the most targeted for cyber-attacks.  We will outline some general approaches to Industry 4.0 that will make your data much more secure.  In the end, the business will want to maintain a good balance between data availability and data security.


security, Image 2

One traditional method of protecting equipment from attacks is to simply not connect them to a network, a strategy known as “air-gapping”.  But this is not a viable solution – the equipment and operation cannot benefit from Industry 4.0 in this case!  Furthermore, air-gapped machines are still vulnerable to attacks via USB, which is how the infamous Stuxnet attack occurred.

Steps to Security

To protect against potential cyber-attacks, a comprehensive plan should be enacted.  There will not be a small list, and the purchase of one out-of-the-box solution will not sufficiently protect a business. 

  1. Start Early

Ideally, before you deploy Industry 4.0 programs, develop a data security strategy.  Making changes to systems already in production will be a difficult and expensive task.  Consult with experienced professionals and plan to properly invest in security measures.

2. Complete a System Assessment

Complete a thorough evaluation of the risk associated with each of your assets.  Focus on outdated equipment that could be subject to vulnerability.  Develop a long-term plan that addresses the gaps and stick to this plan.  Replicate this assessment recurrently to keep the prioritization up-to-date.

3. Understand Industry Standard Practices

To assist in your data protection, follow industry standards that have been established for cyber security.  Any new devices added to the facility should be mandated to meet these standards.

Data, Image 3- Pitfalls to data protection

In addition to these general steps there are several specific actions that should be taken:

  • User Access groups should be built and updated.
  • Software should be patched or updated frequently. 
  • Logins should have multi-factor authentication enabled.
  • All new projects should undergo a standard review for cyber-security risk.
  • Enable encryption technology on the data at your site.
  • Audit the cyber security programs and keep records of the audit results.


Industry 4.0 allows manufacturing to make great strides in the utilization of data to better the business.  With the emphasis on data availability though, steps must be taken to properly secure it.  The effort of protecting data should be a comprehensive systematic approach, and no Industry 4.0 program should be without a plan. 

As technology continues to advance rapidly, new opportunities will keep cropping up.   In taking advantage of these opportunities, businesses cannot ignore the threats that cyber-attack pose.  Not preparing properly can mean huge losses for an operation.  Encouragingly, much has been done in this space, and businesses can learn from the experiences of others.

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