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IoT

Caterpillar Eyes Competitive Edge with Connected Asset Security Program

Launches program to incorporate security by design and a strategic governance policy across all of its IoT products.

Caterpillar's security is undergoing a metamorphosis, following its launch earlier this year of its Connected Asset Security program.

Over the past five years, Caterpillar has provided "tactical" security for its remote-controlled equipment used in its three areas of business – construction, resources, and energy and transportation, says Joseph Zacharias, global head of information security engineering at Caterpillar.

But earlier this year, as part of its Connected Asset Security program, the heavy-equipment manufacturer approved plans to inject a strategic governance policy across all of its IoT products and require a security by design approach, said Zacharias, a speaker at the ISC(2) Security Congress convention in Austin, Texas.

Security by design requires the security team to be brought into the mix when the product is undergoing the design phase, rather than "bolting it on later," explained Zacharias.

As part of the Connected Asset initiative, Caterpillar is piloting a predictive analytics platform that is designed to gather data from the sensors on its products that are in operation, aggregate the information, then notify users of a potential equipment failure prior to it occurring as a safety measure.

The predictive analytics platform will be another service offering and one to leverage Caterpillar's current monitoring and equipment remote control services that it currently offers.

"The Connected Asset Security program will give us a competitive advantage," Zacharias said.

Selling Security to the Board

In order to put these Connected Asset Security plans into action, Caterpillar's CIO went to the company's board of directors and outlined why it would be important to move forward with an enterprise-wide security policy, how vulnerabilities could harm the company's reputation, and noted how much of what was being asked of the board was already being done informally.

The outcome was an easy sell to the board, Zacharias said.

"If you provide IoT devices, it's important to show the business value of securing the connected devices," he explained. "You need to talk about the safety, quality, and security of the IoT devices and how security can also be used as a competitive advantage."

He added it's also important to get management to buy into the notion that internal IoT devices should be managed and viewed as another endpoint that should be secured.

The program received a $13.8 million budget, and although there is funding put in place, Zacharias says it has been difficult to hire the needed IT security staff. As a result, it has extended the two-year program by an additional six months to address the 40 projects that need to be deployed.

"It's been a challenge. We now have 14 projects running simultaneously," said Zacharias.

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Dawn Kawamoto is an Associate Editor for Dark Reading, where she covers cybersecurity news and trends. She is an award-winning journalist who has written and edited technology, management, leadership, career, finance, and innovation stories for such publications as CNET's ... View Full Bio

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