Cybersecurity in Industry 4.0

Smart Factory is the core of Industry 4.0

The way technology has invaded our lives can be overwhelming at times. We carry small computers everywhere, in our pockets or bags. Our TVs are digitized and connected to streaming platforms. Even our bodies are starting to have a digital layer applied through the use of smart fitness bracelets.

Industrial sectors are no exception; the digitization of manufacturing, the construction industry, and utility firms are advancing and industries are making the most of the benefits it brings. European initiatives and projects encourage industries to use IT&C in business processes and to follow the path of digitization, lead industry and production towards a new world known as Industry 4.0.

 There are a number of factors that are driving the industry toward this new era:

  • Undoubtedly, the cornerstone for this change is increased connectivity as Internet communications have become faster and more robust.
  • Globalization is a contributing factor to the importance of widely distributed connectivity in the industry.
  • At stake is the ability to cope with the massive increase in data generated by communication channels. Analytics and business intelligence are key tools that add value to data.
  • We also mention technological advances such as 3D printing, robotics, and simulation and modeling systems such as BIM in construction.
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) has already taken advanced connectivity to a new realm and given wings to the digitization of industry and manufacturing.


The concept of Industry 4.0 can be characterized by several keywords. Automation, autonomy, flexibility and individualization, interconnectivity, increased efficiency and effectiveness are the central terms. The core of Industry 4.0 is the Smart Factory. The smart factory is operated by cyber-physical systems (made up of physical components that receive virtual commands) and innovative industrial robots and is at the same time connected to the environment.

Smart Factory brings with it new security challenges. By its very nature, a Smart Factory needs to be interconnected to many other systems. It is part of a much larger ecosystem. Any extended ecosystem is complex, and with complexity comes significant increases in points of failure. Smart isn't just about creating opportunities and building faster, more valuable communications, it's about building the infrastructure to support those gains and building resilience into that framework. In a world where cybersecurity and privacy concerns are at their peak, we must ensure that Industry 4.0 addresses these issues as part of the whole.

 Why do we still not meet Industry 4.0 technologies everywhere?

Industries would only benefit if they adopted Industry 4.0 technologies. Therefore, why has this transition not been achieved at the expected rate? The answer is simple: security.

As the manufacturing industry adopts more and more Industry 4.0 technologies, it becomes a more attractive target for attackers. They have the opportunity to move laterally along a production network, oscillating between IT and OT with their malicious activities. Without the necessary protection, attackers can take advantage of systems to:

  • industrial espionage
  • intellectual property theft
  • IP leaks
  • production sabotage
  • cyber terrorism

The security challenges of Industry 4.0

Manufacturing is the second most attacked industry, yet the manufacturing sector remains behind in terms of security.

Smart factories are subject to exploitation vulnerabilities, malware, denial of service (DoS), device hacking and other common attack methods. The extended attack surface of a smart factory poses challenges when it comes to detecting and protecting against cyber-attacks. These threats now operate at a whole new level with IoT technologies and can have serious consequences for equipment, data, production, and people.

The most common security challenges facing organizations in the industry 4.0 era are:

  • Every connected device is a potential risk.
  • Manufacturing systems such as Industrial Control Systems have unique vulnerabilities that make them particularly susceptible to cyber-attacks.
  • Industry 4.0 connects previously isolated systems, which increases the attack surface.
  • Updates are often installed piecemeal because systems are very complex.
  • Manufacturing has far fewer regulated compliance standards than other sectors.
  • Visibility is low for separate systems and isolated environments.

Good security practices for Industry 4.0

As more interconnected systems are deployed, attack possibilities increase and threat protection becomes a full-time task.

The manufacturing sector must:

  • Adopt a risk-based approach to security (link business criticality to protection strategy)
  • Keep an accurate inventory of all OT assets in real-time
  • It combines the best of IT and OT technologies as an integrated part of the protection strategy
  • Identify and fix outdated systems, vulnerabilities, and poorly secured files
  • Put security first when introducing new systems to the network
  • Stay alert to potential threats with real-time vulnerability assessments and risk prioritization
  • Ensure that technology providers and manufacturers of connected equipment commit to regular security patches and audits.

Protecting OT and ICS systems is not for the uninitiated. Once you decide to move to the industry 4.0 model, invest in smart and automated equipment, you must also take on and implement cyber security in the factory. Whether you bring in an expert on your team or outsource cybersecurity, a complete strategy also involves a cybersecurity software and hardware solution dedicated to industrial network security.

What you need to remember 

The industry is currently undergoing a digital transformation.

  • Cyber-physical systems (CPS) combine physical elements and digital networks to revolutionize the way companies automate processes and share information.
  • The combination of virtual and physical systems in the Smart Factory enables interoperability and real-time operation capability. But it comes at the cost of expanding the attack surface that requires IT and OT security.
  • Organizations must take the security implications seriously in order to have a successful journey toward Industry 4.0.
  • Ultimately, good security practices will be the key to success for Industry 4.0.