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Cybersecurity Concerns In Industrial Automation

Cybersecurity Concerns In Industrial Automation

Industry 4.0, digital transformation, or digitalization, whatever you want to call it, introduces digital technologies into industries. Technologies such as robotics, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and others can all work together to increase production and efficiency while reducing costs.

Automation is playing a significant role in the fourth industrial revolution. Once existing systems become interconnected, they can improve various processes and bring production to a whole new level. However, since the internet is the backbone of industry 4.0, cybercriminals keep developing new ways to breach systems and steal information.

Technologies Behind The Smart Factory

The term "smart factory" is used to describe factories that use a system that connects all assets into an AI-powered digital platform. The system uses data generated by IoT sensors placed on every asset to monitor every device in real-time. 

Moreover, the right product lifecycle management software combined with a manufacturing execution system unlocks many other features to improve productivity and streamline processes.

The system must be configured to allow the data to flow between machines and the central hub. After the data is analyzed, it can identify weak operating spots, find new business opportunities, etc. This is why data quality can help enhance trust in AI.

Once the AI learns how everything works, it can make accurate predictions about every process, allowing companies to improve their future operations. The same approach is also used to train the AI in charge that eventually learns how to complete various tasks through industrial automation. 

However, all of these processes and technologies have to be connected to the internet at all times, increasing the chances of cyberattacks. So let's look at these technologies more closely and explain how they present a security risk.

Internet of Things

IoT or IIoT, which stands for Industrial Internet of Things, is the heart of the interconnected system on an enterprise scale. Increased connectivity offers some significant benefits, but it also comes with increased security concerns. 

IoT devices connect the physical and the digital worlds, so traditional security features won't get the job done. In the case of a digital cyber attack, the damage can easily spill into the real world, leading to severe problems in manufacturing and other business processes.

Enterprises have to find a way to keep their assets safe from potential cyber-attacks. That's why most leading companies pour billions of dollars into developing and implementing new security standards. 

Industrial automation has a role here, too, as there are various methods to identify security threats by the AI in charge of the system before the damage is done. With that said, the road to developing such a solution is long and expensive.

Convergence of OT and IT 

Companies usually use cloud-based software and online servers to get the most out of their digital technologies, putting them at risk of cyberattacks. However, cybercriminals know how these technologies work, so they leverage IT technologies to target OT networks. 

As IoT technology is used in an industrial setting, manufacturers have to face plenty of safety and security concerns to improve protection from cyber attacks. 

That includes updating outdated technologies, providing employees with extra training about the potential risks IoT technology comes with, and ensuring that their systems are safe and sound from prying eyes. 

The setup may take up to 18 months to complete, but it's an essential step in adopting digital technologies on an enterprise level.

Outdated Legacy Systems

Most legacy systems were created decades ago, so they use a different approach to manufacturing. The problem starts when you want to adopt new technologies into existing systems. Most legacy systems focus on integrity and availability rather than security, complicating the digitalization of supply chain management processes.

The difference between legacy systems and modern IoT systems is a significant challenge for cybersecurity efforts. Finding a way to connect the two technologies into a secure ecosystem is also expensive. You will have to spend money on advanced encryption, traffic analysis, adding the features to new devices down the road.


Compliance can also be an issue, especially when integrating tools made by different vendors. Sadly, industrial automation and industrial software, in general, have no standards when it comes to compliance, which is often followed by significant security risks. 

Moreover, when an IIoT system is adopted and applied to a modern supply chain, ensuring that it's 100% safe at all times is also a significant challenge. When you consider the fact that most companies have multiple stakeholders, assigning liability is also a problem. 

The bottom line is that every industrial automation software vendor has its design principles, and many don't follow the latest security standards. That's why you should always check if the solution you want is made according to the security standards.

Finding the Right Talent

Adopting new technologies requires a new set of skills. Engineers and technical specialists with over 20 or 30 years of experience rely on contract workers to complete their work. Industrial automation needs a different approach, and experienced workers have a hard time catching up with new processes and technologies. 

Most companies that are going through a digital transformation struggle to find the people with the skills needed for the new environment. Thousands of companies are trying to adopt digital technologies, and the number of available engineers and IIoT specialists is very limited. Therefore, finding the right people to do the job is not easy, especially when considering that the system must be created according to the latest cybersecurity standards. 

At best, you will need to provide your existing workforce with further training and hire a few software specialists with the right skills to help guide the process. It would be best to surround yourself with people who understand the cybersecurity challenges of introducing IoT in manufacturing. If done right, you can create a safe platform that provides all of the benefits of industrial automation at the lowest risk to cyber-attacks possible.


The manufacturing industry was always among the first to adopt new technologies to increase production and efficiency. However, many manufacturers are known for their lack of awareness of cybersecurity, which is a serious problem when adopting digital technologies. 

That's why you must establish cybersecurity regulations in the early stages of digital transformation. Then, invest as much as you can into creating a strong cybersecurity system, create a strong response strategy, and ensure that every potential risk is dealt with as soon as possible. Only then can you rest assured that your IIoT system is safe from prying eyes.