4/10/2019
06:00 AM
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb

Report Finds That Industry 4.0 Will Pose New & Old Risks

Trend Micro thinks the fourth industrial revolution is upon us.



Trend Micro thinks the fourth industrial revolution is upon us. They see it characterized by the use of cyber-physical systems (CPSs) in production processes, where the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), machine learning, as well as big data and analytics play key roles.

They have just published a report about their view of this, "Securing Smart Factories: Threats to Manufacturing Environments in the Era of Industry 4.0." It was written by Matsukawa Bakuei, Ryan Flores, Vladimir Kropotov and Fyodor Yarochkin.

The report acknowledges that integrating the organization's IT infrastructure with the operational technology (OT) and intellectual property (IP) sides of the business means that the attack surface will increase significantly. They see that threat actors will find weak points to break the security of production. Attacks designed to target industrial control systems (ICSs), in particular, pose in their view threats to production facilities.

The term Industry 4.0 was first used by the German government in 2011 to describe the convergence and benefits of cyber-physical systems (CPSs) in an industry. In this revision of what a factory is and what it can do, production machines must communicate with other pieces of equipment along with syncing with systems for order, procurement and production. The benefit of these new connections will bring increased productivity and efficiency, on-demand manufacturing and improved data retention for compliance. But, it also changes the threat risk model needed by a manufacturing company. OT was previously isolated, now it connects with company IT. Networks must be protected to blunt any possible espionage as well as enabling the proper restrictions and access management for IP assets that must be shared.

Not only that, the convergence of OT with IT requires integration of protocols and devices that were not initially designed to be part of a TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) world. Because manufacturing equipment has long life cycles, integrating it into more modern networks does not go quickly. The usual factory will be in some sort of intermediate state of 4.0, which introduces its own vulnerabilities.

A manufacturer will likely use Windows XP for their production devices simply because that's what was there when they purchased it and "it still works." There may be unpatched vulnerabilities present in these OSs. That is why an older worm malware like Conficker is still seen by Trend Micro as one of the top malware infectors for both enterprises and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). OT networks bring their own problems to the equation. The human-machine interface (HMI) used in these production networks may not have been designed with current threat models.

Trend Micro found that the common security problems with HMIs involved memory corruption (stack- and heap-based buffer overflows and out-of-bounds read/write vulnerabilities), poor credential management (use of hard-coded passwords, storing passwords in recoverable format and insufficiently protected credentials) and lack of authentication and unsecure defaults (clear text transmission, missing encryption and unsafe ActiveX controls).

The full report digs deeper into the overall problem set, yet the recommendations that it makes will seem familiar to most security teams. These include restricting user access and permissions, enforcing domain or subnetwork restrictions, disabling directory listings and removing or disabling unnecessary services. The report sums up things this way, "While Industry 4.0 enables efficiencies and economic advantages, adopters need to be aware of the new cyber threat risk profile associated with it. They need to consider the security implications, design networks, technologies, processes, and reporting lines that will address the new environments being ushered in."

— Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek.

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