The Internet of Things makes cyber security more important than ever before

To be able to innovate faster than cyber criminals, that's what's important when it comes to the Internet of Things. ABB is taking the lead in that race.

The importance of cyber security will only increase further in the coming years, especially considering more and more devices are now connected and communicate with each other.

Cyber security is a hot topic. Data is more valuable than ever before, and is sometimes described as “the new gold”. And just as the real gold is safely locked away in Fort Knox, data also deserves adequate protection. Food or pharmaceutical companies can lose billions if secret recipes or formulas fall into the wrong hands. And we should not forget critical installations – water purification plants, power plants, or even closer to home: flood defences – that are increasingly being controlled digitally.

The Internet of Things links all of this data. ABB Ability – the new platform that brings all ABB digital services together – bundles around 70 million different devices worldwide. And this number will only rise in the future. They will also be increasingly connected to each other and communicate with each other. Nowadays every device – whether it is in a factory or in our home – has built-in software that connects it to other devices. Even our coffee machine now has software that can be read.

Endless possibilities, but an ever-larger attack surface

The Internet of Things offers companies many new possibilities, but there is also a downside to its advantages. The attack surface for people with bad intentions is also much greater. We are already seeing evidence of that: due to the fact that more devices are connected, hackers can sometimes suddenly stop an entire production line via the computers in the office environment. The effect is like falling dominoes. This makes cyber security extra important.

In terms of IT in an office environment, confidentiality is the most important component. In operational environments, availability is the most important component. But now the office and operational environments are more connected than ever, we have to reconcile these two components. Making systems as safe and confidential as possible, without compromising the availability and operability of the systems.

This is cyber security for ABB. It goes beyond mere protection, it concerns the optimal operation of companies.

Innovate faster than the cyber criminals

Cyber criminals do not sit still, of course; so innovation is crucial in cyber security. We need to ensure we are always one step ahead of them. But we also need to be able to respond quickly and accurately if that does not work. We can do this by continually improving and optimising our protection, and by developing new products in response to future scenarios that nobody would think of now.

The first layer is protection against leaks, thefts, hacks. Virus and malware protection, updates, etc.; it seems self-evident, but they are just forgotten too often. These are the foundations where cyber security always and everywhere begins. Of course, we also invest heavily in login tracing, cyber security fingerprints, as well as other services, to quickly identify where things go wrong and be able to intervene. But, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

cyber-security-care

This was also the idea behind the cyber asset management ABB launched recently. Companies with a lot of critical infrastructure – the energy or water sector, for example – now submit their installations to a thorough cyber security check every year or every two years. But it’s no longer sufficient in a time when technology is evolving so quickly. Infrastructure should be monitored permanently. We detect new devices, modifications to existing devices, etc. This way we not only increase safety, but also efficiency. Safer and more economical.

Strong wake-up calls and growing awareness

Our cyber security workshops and 800xA control system workshops are packed. In recent years, companies have received a number of vigorous wake-up calls, such as the Wannacry ransomware that hijacked more than 200,000 computers last year. These attacks made an impression.

The awareness of cyber security has increased tremendously. There are still quite large differences between sectors and industries, and there are still companies that assume it will not happen to them. But more and more companies are realising that a leak, theft or hack will cost them a great deal of money and could seriously damage their reputation. Better safe than sorry.

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About the author

Kees van Overveld

Kees van Overveld has been working for ABB since 2000. As Global Technical Product Manager for Cyber Security Services Industrial Automation Control Technologies, he’s technically responsible for designing, developing, describing, maintaining and expanding services in Cyber Security. For both our internal and external customers. In addition to Technical Product Management, Kees also trains engineers and customers to use ABB products and solutions as safely and responsibly as possible.
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