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Leo Simonovich

Risk Management

Securing Industrial IoT in an Era of Persistent Cyberattacks

Siemens Energy’s AI-based monitoring and detection platform provides intelligent illumination for IoT cyber defense

Published: Wednesday, October 6, 2021 - 12:01

The digital revolution is the key to unlocking a more innovative, sustainable, and connected global economy. This future hinges on transforming the decades-old analogue machines that run the world’s energy and industrial sectors into a hyperconnected network of physical and digital assets—an industrial internet of things (IoT).

For energy and infrastructure companies, industrial IoT opens new horizons. Innovative business models digitally connect physical assets with operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) to improve efficiency, enhance safety, and optimize operations by leveraging innovative software applications, big data analytics, advanced sensors, and artificial intelligence (AI). But harnessing the power of industrial IoT is about more than any one company’s success. It holds the promise to drive the innovative businesses and professions of tomorrow for communities around the globe.

Above all, IoT is accelerating the energy transition, enabling an all-electric future, and catalyzing new industries only possible with connected infrastructure. Yet a future run on industrial IoT has a glaring Achilles’ heel: cybersecurity. Today, defenders lack the capability to secure the energy sector and critical infrastructure from cyberattacks. Criminal enterprises and rival nation-states have already shown that they can hijack or destroy critical infrastructure at the touch of a button. So, if we’re going to deliver a more sustainable, accessible, and low-carbon future, we must reimagine how to secure it.

The IoT monitoring and detection imbalance

When it comes to cybersecurity, defenders are overwhelmed by the complexity and relentless change inseparable from the benefits of IoT. As companies digitize both novel and legacy technologies to operate everything in the industrial world—from renewables and electric vehicles to retrofitted smart grids, pipelines, and water treatment facilities—they also make themselves more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Every link between a physical and digital asset enhances a future attacker’s ability to hold hostage the energy and critical infrastructure systems of tomorrow. Right now, defenders are behind the curve.

Securing industrial IoT eludes even highly skilled defenders for one simple reason: Most companies lack the capabilities to equally monitor, detect, and act on potential cyber threats across an operating environment of physical and digital assets. Historically, defenders primarily engineered their security operations centers (SOCs) around the then-contemporary challenge of identifying and preventing cyberattacks on IT systems. These existing capabilities don’t match the complex threats now facing IoT networks.

Chief information security officers (CISOs) and their teams of analysts must adjust to meet these threats—not of tomorrow, but of today. Companies relying on industrial IoT business models need defenders with both sophisticated IT and OT technical expertise, and SOC capabilities to secure physical assets from cyber threats. Not only are these capabilities hard to come by, but no solution exists to level up physical cybersecurity and merge it with well-practiced digital protocols. Without a unified understanding of the industrial IoT threat landscape, defenders will continually lack the visibility to see the operating status of every connected device, let alone analyze the tremendous volume of data produced every minute to spot a potential threat.

Eos.ii: The foundation for a fusion SOC to illuminate industrial IoT

That’s why Siemens Energy has built Eos.ii, the first AI-based monitoring and detection platform to serve as the foundation of an IOT fusion SOC for energy and critical infrastructure in an era of persistent cyberattacks.

Eos.ii is an intelligent software platform that provides CISOs with an evergreen foundation for industrial IoT cybersecurity. By design, Eos.ii readily adapts to future threats and empowers analysts with actionable insights that bridge the digital and physical divide within a unified SOC. The AI-based monitoring and detection platform automatically unifies and standardizes IoT data flows, so analysts have visibility into every part of an IoT network—and can analyze anomalous behavior that might represent a cyber threat—in a single pane of glass.

Eos.ii uses machine learning to automatically tailor defenses and prioritize high-consequence events. As new threats emerge, Eos.ii seamlessly integrates their known characteristics into automated defenses, and allows for easy manual updates to its rules-based detection engine. With Eos.ii, defenders spend less time on routine tasks and more time conducting important investigations. This marks a powerful shift: Instead of reacting to attacks already underway, defenders can disrupt attacks in their early stages. Companies can implement precision defenses when confronted with breaches. Instead of all-or-nothing shutdowns, with precision defense, companies under attack can purge exactly the affected systems—no more and no less.

Eos.ii empowers defenders with the insights they need to act quickly and precisely. It’s how we can secure the energy revolution against an era of rising threats.

To learn more about how Eos.ii lays the foundation for a secure industrial IoT future, check out this new white paper.

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About The Author

Leo Simonovich’s picture

Leo Simonovich

Leo Simonovich is Vice President and Global Head, Industrial Cyber and Digital Security for Siemens Energy. He is responsible for setting the strategic direction for Siemens’ industrial cyber security business worldwide. He identifies emerging market trends, works with customers and Siemens businesses to provide best-in-class cyber offers, and contributes to the company's thought leadership on the topic. He is particularly focused on solving the cyber security challenge in the O&G and power sectors by bringing unique solutions to customers looking to address a growing and costly operational security risk.

Previously, Leo led the cyber risk analytics practice area at the management consulting firm, Booz Allen Hamilton. While at Booz Allen, Leo created an industry recognized methodology to evaluate the financial benefits of investment in cyber security.

Comments

As cyber security expert

As cyber security expert Bruce Schneier has said, “If you think technology can solve your security problems, then you don’t understand the problems and you don’t understand the technology.”

Usually understated in discussions about IoT security: a system only needs to be breached once to wreak havoc on it, or worse, weaponize it. There is no telling what loopholes will soon exist alongside the ones we already face. Likewise, there is also no reason to suspect that AI or other new countermeasures will be enough. Cybercrime evolves with the technology, often outpacing security efforts. “Smart” cars, appliances, and even pacemakers have been hacked, many overridden and controlled remotely. People now talk very enthusiastically about “smart grids”, assuming the cyber defense will be robust enough by then. It won’t be.

Siemens has every practical and PR reason to push for the utmost in cyber security measures, though this is in the high hope that they have already learned to effectively secure existing software. Recall that the Iranian nuclear program, run on Siemens centrifuges, was decimated due to the Struxnet malware in 2010. Though the immediate Struxnet effect proved favorable for national security efforts, it still demonstrates that outside actors can compromise machinery by commandeering the software.

There is no threshold for cyber security; there is only better and worse risk management. For every optimistic IoT development, it is most realistic to multiply the associated risk factor by ten, maybe more. In practice, interconnecting all of our most sensitive and powerful systems means that “smart” hardware at a water treatment facility supplying water to a hundred thousand people can be compromised by malware in the phishing email the receptionist opens. Siemens must choose the path of lowest risk in lieu of the most “innovative” one. There is too much on the line.