Modernizing and Securing Your Industrial Network

Manufacturing facilities are becoming more connected, and the associated benefits are limitless – from becoming more agile and competitive in the market, to maximizing efficiency, reducing costs, or monetizing data. It’s becoming clear that implementing smart manufacturing best practices is no longer a choice but a necessity for survival.

Facing Industrial Business Challenges

As the industrial sector continues to evolve, companies need to ensure their networks are adjusting to support these changes in a secure way. Increased connectivity expands the potential attack surface, especially as vendors, contractors, and maintenance are looking to access data from remote locations.

During this evolution, we see four main business challenges that industrial companies typically face:

  1. Skills Shortage: Typically, cybersecurity professionals are scarce. They are generally located in headquarter locations vs. at the plant floor, and there are even fewer with OT expertise.
  2. Growing Cyber Threats: With an increase in connected applications and devices, there is deeper integration between IT, OT, and the cloud – leading to a greater need for cybersecurity.
  3. Compliance Requirements: Ensuring that proper regulatory requirements are met is critical or even mandatory to the survival of businesses.
  4. OT/IT Convergence: Managing the operational technology and information technology merge comes with the potential for major business gain, but some hurdles must be overcome.

These pre-existing and new challenges can be addressed by modernizing your industrial networks. IoT delivers radical transformation across the manufacturing sector, but getting there isn’t easy. Not only is cybersecurity vital to ensure production continuity and safety, but it is also an opportunity to gain visibility to your assets and make your network more resilient.

Deploying IoT at a scale requires configuring and managing numerous assets and devices, and dealing with complex operational and industry requirements. Moreover, it creates potential blind spots that increase your security risks. It’s imperative that while you look at how you can harness your data to improve your operations, you also look at securing that data to avoid risks.

Securing Your Industrial Network

So, how do you secure your industrial network? We recommend a four-step journey:

  1. Asset discovery: Identify your industrial assets and who they are communicating with – to define what needs to be done, you need a precise view of the situation.
  2. Segment your control networks: Group assets into isolated Industrial Control System (ICS) zones and define security policies to protect zones in order to prevent attacks from spreading.
  3. Enforce security policies: Detect intrusions from the IT domain to block attempts to scan and modify industrial assets and control communications on your industrial network.
  4. Monitor industrial processes: Detect abnormal behaviors from industrial assets, run converged IT/OT threat investigations, and block attacks on your ICS before it’s too late.

By following this four-step journey, you will drive your OT security project to success. Securing your industrial network will not happen overnight. A phased approach where each phase builds the foundation for the next can enhance your security posture at your own pace, mature your OT security strategy to ease investigation and remediation, and demonstrate value to all stakeholders to embark on this journey.

To successfully secure the OT environment, all stakeholders must work together. Operations must understand the industrial environment, including the devices, the protocols, and the business processes. While IT should understand the IP network, and the security team understands threats and vulnerabilities. By working together, they can leverage existing security tools and expertise to protect the industrial network without disrupting production safety and uptime.

Another key success factor is simplicity. Deploying OT cybersecurity can quickly become very complex, especially if the industrial network is dispersed across an entire country or many remote industrial sites. For your OT cybersecurity project to be successful, you must be able to scale it easily and at a reasonable cost across your entire organization.

Choosing the Right Security Solution

The networking team might not have the resources to deploy, maintain, and manage a fleet of security appliances. The additional traffic created by these appliances would likely also require new resources. Choosing a security solution that leverages the existing industrial network to detect what’s connected to it and secure both assets and processes will help you achieve your goals.

No matter what manufacturing vertical, every facility has critical systems and devices that must be properly protected. By choosing the right partner, you can connect and secure your industrial IoT environments from the plant floor to the enterprise network, and even to the cloud. 

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of Cisco. They do not necessarily represent Wesco's views.

Cisco logo

This article was brought to you in partnership with Cisco.
The worldwide leader in IT and networking, Cisco helps companies of all sizes transform how people connect, communicate, and collaborate.