The corona pandemic has significantly accelerated the convergence of physical and digital assets and created an extended Internet of Things (IoT). Ransomware attacks on hospitals, pipelines, food supplies, and other critical infrastructure have exposed the vulnerability of cyber-physical systems (CPS). To take advantage of the immense benefits of the extended IoT, however, the security of the systems must be improved.
Enhanced IoT (XIoT) Is The Silver Lining On The COVID Horizon
Corona has accelerated the digital transformation by five to ten years and driven the convergence of physical and digital assets. Ransomware attacks on hospitals, pipelines, food supply, and other critical infrastructure have a high criticality of cyber-physical systems (CPS) and their vulnerability to attacks. With more time, the security industry would have been better prepared to address the cyber risks of converged CPS. Perhaps the acceleration of the transformation and the functions it will enforce are the silver lining to the pandemic.
First of all, it must be clarified what “cyber-physical systems” are. NIST defines CPS as “interacting digital, analog, physical, and human components that function through integrated mechanical and logical processes.” Other terms are IoT, Industrial Internet, Smart Cities, Smart Grid, and “Smart Anything” like cars, buildings, or devices. For convenience, these categories can be broadly referred to as the Extended IoT (IoT), which includes three main components:
- Industrial IoT (IIoT) And Operational Technology (OT) encompass all cyber-physical processes and devices, such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs) that support critical processes in industrial environments. These systems are internally connected to workstations that can usually be accessed remotely for maintenance purposes. In addition, cyber components such as intelligent sensors also fall under IIoT. These networked processes and systems are now being used in all critical infrastructure sectors, from manufacturing to the energy sector to transportation.
- Healthcare IoT includes medical imaging devices such as MRI machines and
- and Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) devices such as smart monitors and infusion pumps that support critical care in healthcare. These systems are usually connected to the IT networks of the respective institutions.
- All Other IoT Devices are used in smart cities, smart grids, enterprise IoT and smart anything.
The accelerated spread of the XIoT brings with it several advantages.
Unlocked Business Opportunities: Projects related to digital transformation and connectivity that were not funded or prioritized due to the challenges of day-to-day business and the digitization of operations now moved to the top of the list. The pandemic forced companies to act. This allowed for increased flexibility in responding to the pandemic. Still, it also made it clear that different ways of working are possible and lead to cost reductions and higher productivity. The new technological interconnections offered more efficient ways to measure output, calibrate performance, and ultimately run companies better.
Driving Security Innovation: There is always friction between users and security policies. However, in the context of the pandemic, this changed as the definitions of work equipment and processed needed to expand to work safely in this new “borderless” world. It required new security technologies to identify and monitor all the devices and processes that were previously disconnected and new, expanded networks that now include the IoT. Security has been inextricably linked to the systems it protects to accelerate deployment. This innovation strengthened and accelerated the acceptance of security.
Prioritizing Cybersecurity At The Board Level: The board of directors has been educated on cyber risks. They have now also recognized that cyber security is a competitive advantage in many cases. Securing the XIoT was an important part, given the widespread use of critical systems in companies. Due to the new dimension of networking, cyber governance had to be extended to all systems and devices. The pandemic has required leaders traditionally from finance to understand the proactive actions companies need to take in the digital transformation and associated cybersecurity posture to remain competitive. Faced with this new reality, many CIOs, CISOs, and digital transformation leaders have risen to the executive board/board of directors.
Increased Executive Awareness Of The XIoT: Executives increasingly understand the convergence of cyber and physical systems, recognizing both the competitive advantages that connectivity brings and the associated risks and how to mitigate them with security technologies and appropriate risk management. The effects of attacks on these new, convergent systems differ significantly from attacks on IT networks, which primarily target data. Attacks on the extended XIoT can endanger production, health, and human life.
In this new reality, security leaders need cross-platform solutions that cover full connectivity between the cyber and physical worlds. Given the scale and complexity of the XIoT, it makes sense to consolidate risk management processes and get a comprehensive view of all aspects and elements of their networks, spanning industrial, healthcare, and enterprise environments. Efficiency and user-friendliness are also important.
For the last two years, we have lived and worked under the dark cloud of the pandemic. However, the accelerated spread of the XIoT is a silver lining. We realize more and more the benefits and advantages it offers businesses. We made faster and safer progress than anyone would have thought possible. There is no turning back on this path. On the contrary, the possibilities of thinking and acting differently are limitless and offer new opportunities.
Also Read: New Technology Is Changing IoT Devices