With devices and machines becoming increasingly connected through the Internet of Things, it is high time to rethink cybersecurity on a whole new level – this is how.
Nearly everything connected to the Internet stands the chance of being hacked, which makes the rise of IoT devices and machinery cumbersome at a security level. What’s more, IDC estimates that in 2020, there will be 26 times more connected things than people. Without a mind of their own, they will need new technologies to govern, instruct, and protect them – most of which we still don’t have today.
Even worse, consider the immediate havoc cyber and IT threats could inflict on critical physical infrastructure like oil and gas pipelines, nuclear plants, electric power stations, water plants, etc. But how can we employ cybersecurity solutions on this level?
Rethinking security to counter present and future threats
But it’s not all bad news. Responding to the needs of the Industrial Internet era, innovators in the field of big data analytics (such as ThetaRay) are working to help industrial organizations strengthen their security postures with new detection methods tailored for their complex nature. Infrastructures where IT and OT mix, where old machinery and proprietary protocols make up all too many exceptions to every rule, are especially challenging to harmonize and defend.
One approach is to enable the collection of big data these organizations generate from all sources, gathering it from every SCADA, ICS, sensors, and systems across the infrastructure, alongside data from the entire IT infrastructure. Then, once could simultaneously analyze the data, automatically and in parallel, to detect suspicious anomalies in it. This capability, although very effective in theory, was not technologically possible until recently.
Innovative, academia-made breakthroughs in the world of big data analytics has made the use of hyper-dimensional, multi domain analytics designed to detect threats without limiting data types or requiring any context or prior knowledge about the data possible.
We need to abandon legacy methods that struggle to keep up with modern day threats and fail to deal with unprecedented unknowns. Instead, we should use detection tools that are not based on rules, patterns, heuristics, or signatures, enabling organizations to uncover both cyber and operational warnings throughout their entire infrastructure, even if those threats cannot be defined in advance. This early warning system can thereby help stop unknowns before they harm production, safety or revenues.
Critical infrastructure sectors like energy, utilities, finance, aviation and transportation already employ this type of game changing solution to update their security posture. With these tools, they no longer need to make changes to internal systems or processes nor have to schedule downtime for the initial deployment of such an in-depth protection solution.
The end result is the timely detection of issues that can impact operations in ways that cause revenue loss and physical damage, or worse, threaten lives. Addressing issues in a timely manner translates into lower maintenance costs, no unplanned downtime, optimal lifespan of critical assets and ongoing efficiency in availability, utilization, customer satisfaction, safety, and production and ultimately, a stronger bottom line.
Mission not impossible
The clash of sophisticated IT and cyber threats with OT that has never been exposed to them until recently is definitely a challenge industrial organizations are grappling with. But the mission, although daunting, is not impossible.
Changing our thinking about ways to detect and counter threats, expediting the time it takes to find issues and address them, and bridging the security gaps between IT and OT will ring in a new era in the connected industrialized world. The ability to make connectivity safe will in turn enable progress and allow us to forge ahead all while safeguarding the nation’s critical infrastructure – protecting what matters most.
The views expressed are of the author.
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