Remote monitoring has pushed the boundaries of industrial manufacturing and maintenance. It is changing how business owners monitor and control production by giving them real-time data from industrial equipment.
Industries are achieving high operational equipment efficiency with reduced costs and safety thanks to remote monitoring and management.
However, that does not take away from the fact that remote monitoring poses additional challenges of cybersecurity threats. When performing monitoring on Ethernet networks, data is vulnerable and can be intercepted by hackers. What steps can you take to prevent the security risks in remote industrial automation monitoring? Let’s find out.
What is Industrial Remote Monitoring?
Industrial remote monitoring involves tracking and assessing real-time data from industrial processes from any location using digitized solutions. The industrial remote monitoring systems are integrated with a cloud-based platform to gain visibility and insights into various performance metrics of industrial systems.
The remote monitoring systems eliminate the need to be physically present at the manufacturing unit all the time and provide manufacturers with data across factory floors, utilities, water and wastewater operations, etc. It allows manufacturers to detect operational issues before they can escalate and halt the production process and even save significant time that is otherwise spent on assessing equipment status.
Manufacturers can use remote management to ensure the industrial systems are updated and as per the latest performance standards and security requirements. They can also get quick information about anomalies and automatically launch service and maintenance tickets to keep the manufacturing schedules on track and prevent downtime.
Security Challenges in Remote Monitoring with Industrial Automation
For the manufacturing sector, a cybersecurity attack on the industrial automation system can disrupt the manufacturing process. While remote monitoring has opened avenues for cost savings and growth for industrialists, it has also unlocked opportunities for malicious entities to exploit the vulnerabilities in cloud access.
Recently, two federal civilian agencies became victims of security attacks via their remote monitoring management tool as a part of a refund scam campaign. This is just one example of how hackers breach security and carry out a ransomware attack.
While this specific attack was financially motivated, other types of attack can exploit data and even gain control of the systems. There are many other dangers associated with security such as distributed denial of service, invasive data breaches, and unauthorized access to the cloud. It surged the need for a modern cybersecurity strategy in remote monitoring in industrial automation.
So while cloud-based remote monitoring in industrial automation is increasingly dominating the manufacturing processes, it is critical to address the security obstacles that act as a barrier to harnessing the fullest potential of remote monitoring in industrial automation.
Methods to Enhance Cybersecurity in Remote Industrial Monitoring
With proper security systems in place, the biggest security risks can be mitigated. Listed below are some of the top methods you can adopt to ensure cybersecurity in remote industrial automation monitoring.
1. Choosing the Right Tools that Provide Secure Access to Remote Industrial Applications
You need to have just the right cybersecurity tools to mitigate the risks associated with implementing remote access for industrial applications. These include
- IPsec VPN Servers
- Industrial Grade Devices
- RMM Software
- LAN Security & Deploying a Firewall
- DMZ for Shared Spaces
It is advisable to have multiple layers of security and a combination of these. VPNs ensure end-to-end encryption and IPsec ensures secure authentication and data integrity. All these factors are key requirements when transferring data on industrial networks. Remote monitoring and management tools leverage IT scripts and patch management to patch security vulnerabilities, eradicate bugs, and improve usability.
DMZ can isolate internal and external networks, and LAN security provides an added layer of security. Industrial-grade secure gateway ensures the safety of access from remote locations and prevents security hacks of industrial systems in a multi-site operation.
2. Clear Cyber Defense Plan
Data security officials need to evaluate the organization’s security landscape by determining the scope of remote devices in industrial automation, applications, and data and understand how they can be monitored and protected. What would the company do in case of a remote monitoring security breach? What are the internal communication policies if a security breach occurs? What steps do the customers and stakeholders take in the event of a security breach?
It is best to have answers to these questions and be prepared in a worst-case scenario. Vendors that provide cloud solutions are encouraged to share cyber threat information, increase transparency on potential risks, and determine ways to mitigate risks and improve security solutions.
3. Monitor and Analyse Data from Remote Management Tools
Security teams need to continuously monitor and analyze the data derived from remote management systems. Most vendors provide dashboards, reports, and alerts on remote monitoring and management software. If you’re able to get reliable data, you can collect and monitor the data and predict suspicious events in advance.
This also means you need to carefully choose your RMM tool and ensure that it is compliant with the latest security regulations. A Managed Service Provider needs to support the infrastructure and fix potential security problems before they impact the clients. Check if the tool performs regular audits and assessments for security and if it identifies gaps or vulnerabilities.
4. Educating the Staff
Security is a shared responsibility. Your employees need to be in the loop about all the potential threats and security measures to help prevent or even reduce the impact of the breach in the future. Train them on security activities such as authentication, backups, password management, multi-cloud security setup, end-to-end encryption, etc.
The employees also need to know about remote monitoring and management tools and the common security risks that can be avoided. These trainings come in handy in events of security breaches and cyberattacks.
Transitioning to a remote access setup is a big decision in itself. However, remote monitoring for industrial automation doesn’t always equate to a higher risk to security. Companies have been able to secure their systems using various modern cybersecurity techniques that apply to a multi-cloud-based environment.
But to do so, you need to have a set of security protocols for data breaches and be proactive in mitigating security risks. Right from choosing the right managed security provider to educating personnel, security always needs to be an integral part of the remote management process rather than being an afterthought.