The risks and sideeffects of digitization: Securing and protecting Industry 4.0

IT and OT systems are the foundation of the modern business world, connecting companies, institutions, societies, and economies with each other. Machines and robots are at work around the clock and are networked to a very high degree – both with each other and with the company’s IT system. For industrial companies, it is of particularly high importance to have protective mechanisms in place for what is known as operation technology (OT). Ensuring security in OT is subject to a very special set of framework conditions. The primary focus here is on non-stop operations: 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Any actions taken occur in real time, which makes it difficult or even impossible to make any changes to the systems. There is also the fact that hardware and software are used for comparably long periods in production, in stark contrast to other applications.

Attacks on production operations can have serious consequences. For example, an aircraft manufacturer was forced to stop production for over a week. A global, publicly listed aluminum producer had to pay an estimated EUR 64.9 million to restore operations after a cyber attack using ransomware, not counting the loss of production and earnings, which came to over 80 percent.

Disarming cyber safecrackers

Cyber attacks and incidents of this kind make it quite clear that what is needed is a holistic, well thought-out security concept that includes both OT and IT. The digitization and interconnectedness of IT and OT open the door for attackers to cause damage in both settings.

IT systems used by financial services companies need to meet the highest demands in terms of speed and availability and are an essential part of ensuring smooth operations.

The complex core banking systems as well as online or mobile banking are focal points for IT security at banks. Another focus is on securing branch operations and helping analyze large amounts of data.

Financial services providers have an ever-growing responsibility to ensure IT security and privacy not least in view of the number of large-scale attacks, fake emails, and websites, as well as the publication of bank details and credit card information in recent times. Immense financial damage is caused by data being stolen or surreptitiously changed, along with substantial reputational damage to the targeted institutions.

On the safe side

Energy suppliers are part of the critical infrastructure sector, which means they are subject to special security requirements.

The high degree of complexity of the IT and OT systems used and the complex network of relationships that facilitate the multidimensional exchange of information between the parties present new opportunities for potential risks. The confidentiality and protection of personal data relating to private households is of paramount importance in addition to ensuring the availability and integrity of the entire OT and IT systems, networks, measuring devices, and components.

The complexity of how different actors work together, the structures of IT and OT systems, and the diverse functionalities and direct control options offer cyber attackers numerous potential entry points.

The types of threats are manifold and range from attacks with financial or sabotage-related motives, malware, zero-day attacks, botnets, denial of service, and distributed denial of service, through to complex advanced persistent threats that could be deployed in a targeted way to take control of PC workstations from staff working in smart metering settings.


Smart protection

Customer web portal

Access to customer data and database

Smart meter control

Access to the entire power system and shutting down of the power supply

Protocols and control systems

Destabilization of smart meters or attack on other accessible IT and OT systems

PC workstations used to manage smart meters

Penetration of core smart metering systems paired with blackmailing

PC workstations of the SCADA systems

SCADA systems administrators are incapacitated by malware. Attempts are made to manipulate SCADA systems.

Infiltration of foreign devices

If infectious foreign devices are connected, malware can be distributed unhindered and cause damage

automobile sector, operational security, engine production

The more networked vehicles are, the more vulnerable they become. After all, more software, functionalities and interfaces installed in the car automatically translates into more scope for cyber attacks. The rising degree of automation and modern vehicle functions must be protected by security measures. This has an impact on comfort such as entertainment and navigation systems and, more importantly, an impact on road safety, which increases with the use of driver assistance systems, semi-autonomous or autonomous driving.

The car manufacturers themselves must also be protected in addition to car remote controls and applications in cars that communicate constantly with each other. Given that vehicles communicate and transmit information to the outside world via interfaces, servers and infrastructures that collect and process such data must be properly protected.

Protecting mobile data centers

Ministries, government offices, courts, police, financial authorities and patent offices, right up to foreign policy institutions around the world work with a wide variety of highly sensitive data.

Theft, unnoticed alteration or disclosure of such data can have serious consequences for political processes and relations, for the economic development of a country, or for the confidence of citizens in its institutions.

For ministries and authorities

Ransomware attacks such as Wannacry in 2017 not only affected logistics or telecommunications companies, but also led to serious disruptions in the healthcare sector, paralyzing many hospitals.

In the healthcare sector, IT security not only involves protecting patient information, but also ensuring the operation and use of important devices to avoid life-threatening disruptions. After all, apart from sensitive data that are stored, such as social security numbers, medical history, etc., emergencies need to be admitted and treated, and vital diagnostic equipment must continue to operate.

Healthcare facilities, like many other companies in the field of operational technology, have the same problem in that the devices in the network must be constantly available or in use, and therefore cannot be updated or patched.

Time for cyber fitness

Whether by rail or air, whether it involves a conductor, air traffic control system, or toll collection, digitization has arrived in the transport sector.

The transport sector consists of complex networks, large volumes of real-time data, and a multitude of integrated devices. Modern possibilities such as automation and networked vehicles that exchange information in real time with other networked vehicles and control systems in the environment are being used in the transport sector to improve both efficiency and safety. Yet at the same time, this makes all means of transport vulnerable to attack, which means that they must be protected against attacks, unauthorized access, damage, and manipulation.

Everything in motion

Both bricks-and-mortar retailers and e-commerce are extremely interesting targets. Countless transactions are carried out every day with customers or suppliers. Retail companies also hold sensitive and important customer data and store, among other things, e-mail and delivery addresses, as well as bank details.

Weaknesses in online shops, compromised scripts from third parties on payment pages, or inadequate database security are low-hanging fruits, presenting ways for attackers to gain access to customer payment information.

Greater customer security

Inhouse Cyber Defense Center or SOC as a Service?

Continuous OT and IT security monitoring, along with risk detection measures, require organizations to make some initial upfront investments, such as purchasing the required hardware and software, as well as ongoing investments in the highly specialized cyber security experts required. Materna Radar Cyber Security provides its own developed technology as Radar Solutions for organizations that plan to set up their own CDC.

Making use of SOC as a Service (SOCaaS) represents a significant, resource-saving approach for companies, in which the automated detection of security problems and risks is combined with expert analysis, providing the security officers in a company with the information they need to protect their IT system against present risks at the push of a button.

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