GlobalSign Blog

Mitigate Industrial IoT Security Challenges with PKI Solutions

Mitigate Industrial IoT Security Challenges with PKI Solutions

The booming growth of Industrial IoT (IIoT) technologies has delivered enormous benefits for manufacturing, transportation, utilities, energy and healthcare sectors, to name a few. Their rapidly expanding use cases are favorably impacting consumers and industries alike. With extremely complex infrastructures that involve large numbers of interconnected sensors, devices, robotics, smart meters and software, they generate and transmit copious amounts of data and sensitive information. Hence, they have become very attractive targets for cyber criminals. 

Internet Connected Industrial Systems and Devices are Highly Vulnerable 

IIoT devices and systems are uniquely vulnerable to exploit risk due to a number of common practices and weaknesses, including: 

  • Devices and sensors are always on and visible to cyber criminals
  • Poorly secured legacy technologies in use
  • Lack of network segmentation
  • Outdated code libraries are commonly used
  • Passwords may not be strong enough and poor password management
  • Authentication processes are not properly developed and applied
  • Strong security measures, like encryption, are often absent 

Cybersecurity threats are on the rise in the form of data interception and siphoning, malware that takes over device and operational systems control, DDoS attacks that cripple systems, and physical device and sensor theft. Without measures like identity management, encryption, VPNs, zero trust networking, firewalls, and data backup, to name a few, industrial facilities are sitting ducks waiting to be breached.  

Evolution Brings an Industrial IoT Security Conundrum 

Traditionally, the industrial network architecture is made up of layers, and heavily relies on fixed-line connections. The crux of the structure remains the same but thanks to Industrial IoT, there is the scope to implement connectivity to all layers to provide further analytical data and insights. 

There are three main categories for industrial automation components and network architectures connecting the internet to the industrial domain: 

  1. IoT-Connected PLCs and Controllers
  2. Gateways for Custom Machine Connections
  3. Private Networks 

With increased endpoint access to the mechanisms within a variety of industries, security is a top concern to prevent sensitive data loss and operational disruption. According to Globalsign’s whitepaper, Securing the Industrial IoT Market, it is estimated that by 2030, IIoT-enabled machines and production systems within factories will exceed 1.2 billion. The growth trajectory of the global IIoT market is expected to increase from $326 billion in 2021 to a staggering $859 billion by the 2030 benchmark.  

A major hurdle in dealing with IIoT security is the high degree of device heterogeneity. IIoT devices can vary greatly in form, function, and intelligence across markets, each with very different operational processes and production requirements. Additionally, legacy infrastructure is still a large part of many industrial operations, further complicating the security challenge, as it was not designed for modern security tools. 

There are numerous impediments to implementing uniform security protections to IIoT devices. These include strict bandwidth limits, constrained and low compute devices, air-gapped systems, limited upgrade potential of legacy devices, and extremely low latency requirements for real-time operations. These factors, and many others, make it challenging to apply advanced cybersecurity solutions.  

Read the Whitepaper

IIoT Security Starts with Identity 

Providing security for the Industrial Internet starts with assigning identities to the scores of IIoT devices. Once unique identities are in place, operators can build security policies starting with authentication and access control, and then expand to monitoring, threat detection and response, and lifecycle management. 

Within a diverse industrial environment, an asset identification method must be vendor agnostic, flexible, and easily scalable. Digital certificates are a technology that perfectly fits the bill.  Certificates are highly customizable, well-established and ubiquitous. Having a certificate from a trusted authority establishes a verifiable identity for any asset (individual, machine, application, etc.). Digital certificates are a highly compatible security approach for diverse industrial ecosystems.  

They can be implemented in myriad ways including Secure Shell certificates (SSH), digital signatures, digital identities, and code-signing certificates, to name a few. Additionally, certificates use for asset identification is well suited to high-volume environments and can be very cost effective. Certificates can be injected into devices at the point of manufacturing to create a hardware root of trust. They can also be deployed as software on sensors, smart devices, and gateways.  

PKI – The Trusted Technology Behind Digital Certificates 

Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) has provided the foundation of digital trust for the last 30 years, and has stood the test of time, in part because of its flexibility. PKI is a uniquely pliable technology that can fit a variety of use cases and is very adaptable for challenging industrial implementations, enabling custom certificates that align with a wide range of requirements. As a result, PKI has become the primary platform for machine and device identity credentialing.  

PKI technology is an innate component of most IoT platforms, with providers like AWS, Azure IoT Hub, Google Cloud IoT Core, etc., enabling PKI integration on their platforms. Its application within industrial asset management continues to develop as critical PKI benefits in this sector are making PKI-based certificate solutions the best approach for integrating IIoT security. Benefits include minimal operational disruption, crypto agility that future-proofs certificate design for emerging post-quantum cryptography development, streamlined processes, and cost-effectiveness.  

Choosing a Solution with Feature-Rich Certificate Capabilities 

PKI platforms and services are a rapidly growing market with numerous options. Operators within the diverse industrial sector must weigh their unique needs and infrastructure in order to select the best and most appropriate solution. A comprehensive identity platform can simplify and streamline management to optimize industrial processes and security. Key features to look for include configuration, provisioning, and maintenance capabilities for certificates and inventories, integration with IoT platforms and cloud apps, automation, asset visibility, and a trusted dedicated Certificate Authority (CA). 

GlobalSign’s next-generation IoT Identity Platform delivers everything you need for full device identity lifecycle management from design and manufacturing, through deployment and management. Features include: 

  • Cloud-based service
  • High throughput trusted Certificate Authority
  • Dedicated revocation services
  • Integration options to connect to your ecosystem and end devices
  • Accommodates a wide diversity of IoT and IIoT device types
  • Scales down to protect constrained devices
  • Easily integrates into device architectures 

New industrial technologies are delivering incredible advancements, with IIoT proliferating at incredible speed. But in order for industrial operators and the global marketplace to reap the benefits, the application of sound security solutions and practices must remain a critical mission. PKI implementation, deployed through an experienced and trusted provider, will enable a resilient and secure industrial infrastructure.  

Discover GlobalSign’s IoT Security Solutions

Share this Post

Related Blogs