A Safe Path to the Industrial Internet

Internet connectivity has defined a communications revolution over the past 25 years, and in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), this revolution has only just begun. The Internet of Things (IoT) has expanded the reach of the Internet to everyday objects with a degree of intelligence and network connectivity. Any object with an IP address and the ability to transfer data over a network is a potential digitized “thing” for the Internet of Things. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) takes the IoT to the plant floor; equipment and plant machinery that control manufacturing processes.

The resulting interconnected operations systems can monitor, collect, exchange, analyze and act upon the information they receive to optimize the way equipment operates. The paradox of digital manufacturing, however, is that the increased sophistication and efficiencies of the IIoT come at the cost of significantly increased risk to continuous and correct operations. Connecting critical process networks directly to the Internet introduces dangerous new attack channels.

Unfortunately, we can’t have one without the other. In IIoT designs, edge devices – which provide interconnectivity between plant devices, process systems, centralized monitoring, and predictive maintenance functions – are intrinsically connected directly to the Internet, bypassing traditional layers of network protection in manufacturing systems. To address these risks the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) – an organization which works to standardize IIoT best practice architecture – has published a Security Framework for industrial and smart manufacturing sites. Founded in 2014, this organization has over 250 member organizations and Waterfall’s Jesus Molina is the co-chair of the IIC Security Working Group.

Jesus Molina

Jesus Molina

The IIC Security Framework documents a range of protections for IIoT edge devices at different levels of criticality. The strongest protection in the framework is the use of hardware-enforced unidirectional gateway technology for connecting edge devices to Internet-based and IT-based cloud systems. Unidirectional gateway technology makes it possible for data to flow from edge devices to cloud systems with no risk of compromise to control networks.

Waterfall Security Solutions is a cybersecurity specialist focused on protecting industrial control systems and the IIoT. Waterfall’s Unidirectional CloudConnect solves the two major challenges that have slowed the adoption of the IIoT among industrial businesses; interoperability and security. Protection of the industrial site from remote online attacks has been accomplished by providing a safe, built-in, unidirectional connection to the cloud. In addition, Waterfall’s CloudConnect acts as a translation gateway, translating specialized and legacy industrial and operations communications and data formats into cloud-friendly formats and protocols.

Threats to operations control systems are no longer theoretical. With manufacturing control networks connectivity steadily increasing, a unidirectional IIoT architecture reflects a robust and trustworthy way of achieving the increased efficiencies and other business benefits of the IIoT’s central, big-data analysis capabilities. With hardware-enforced secure connectivity to cloud platforms, smart manufacturers can enjoy the best of what the IIoT & cloud revolutions, without suffering new threats to correct, continuous and efficient manufacturing operations.

Courtney Schneider
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