Industrial Cybersecurity on the Plant Floor

Lean into Industry 4.0

The Nebraska Chamber & CED | Industrial Solutions Network are partnering together to host an event to accelerate the knowledge and adoption of Industry 4.0 in order to protect our Nebraska Manufacturing Community from the threats of today and the increasingly advanced competition of tomorrow. 


The many opportunities presented by Industry 4.0 have been outlined and it became clear why modernization is essential for manufacturers. With Industry 4.0, the increase in connectivity across the enterprise promised better business insights and decision making, but how can we assure that modernization doesn’t inadvertently create vulnerability? In this post, the case for manufacturing security will be made, the need for OT security expertise will be uncovered, and a proper approach to security will be defined. 

The Case for Manufacturing Security

There is no question that cyber threats are on the rise. Recent upticks in geopolitical instability, malicious actors, and pandemic related disruptions, have put cyber security at the forefront of many business’s concerns as ransomware, malware, data-phishing, and computer virus attacks have become commonplace. In fact, according to Cybersecurity Ventures, 53% of manufacturers have experienced a cybersecurity breach in the past three years, costing a summated total of over $12 billion. Furthermore, manufacturing enterprises are especially lucrative and vulnerable targets for security breaches. Put simply, manufacturers have a lot to offer, with intellectual property, trade secrets, and critical production processes as potential targets. Alongside, today’s manufacturers are particularly vulnerable as many still utilize poorly inventoried and unprotected legacy assets that can be readily exploited and cause serious consequences. 

IT vs. OT Security Needs

Above all, there is no need to worry, just a need to prepare. The good part is…many modernizing enterprises have quite robust cybersecurity measures on the IT side as IT security is a tried a true practice. The bad part…many manufacturers are unable to effectively convert IT security practices to the OT domain, and with good reason. Implementing information security in the OT space is challenging because the needs and priorities of the OT space vary greatly from IT. 

When implementing information security on an OT network, a necessary trade-off occurs between security level and system performance. IT will almost always emphasize confidentiality whereas OT will require an emphasis on availability. On one hand, security is only as good as its lowest level, or weakest link. On the other hand, overly robust security measures, while showing no adverse effect in the IT world, may dramatically slow down a production process. Thus, before implementing any information security measure, it is necessary to understand how system performance will be affected. Other IT vs. OT differences include strict vs. simple authentication, immediate vs. downtime causing repairs, and continue to operate vs. total shutdown threat responses. 

This is where it is essential to supplement security knowledge with industrial control expertise, and CED is positioned to help strike this optimal balance between availability and security. CED’s security offering is “industrial-native”, meaning we know the OT space and, as a result, can help create an OT-specific approach to security. In this space, uptime and safety are paramount, and technologies such as high-availability controllers, resilient network configurations, and restricted access are just a few of the technologies that can be deployed to secure processes without affecting their reliability.

A Proper Approach

How do we approach security on the plant floor? A proper OT security approach should be based upon a comprehensive threat analysis. In most cases, this approach begins by building a map of the OT infrastructure and subsequently discovering potential vulnerabilities within the infrastructure. Network Assessments, Cybersecurity Assessments, and Network Penetration Tests, all services offered by CED, will complete these tasks. 

Next, each vulnerability needs to be associated with a corresponding risk level, a combination of the likelihood that a vulnerability will be exploited with the severity of its consequence. Vulnerabilities with a high likelihood of being exploited, and whose consequences will cause downtime events, will be of greater criticality than low probability/low impact vulnerabilities. All vulnerabilities identified in a CED cybersecurity assessment will be rated based on criticality. 

Lastly, security assurance, an examination the current countermeasures in place, must be conducted to create a security action plan. Security assurance determines the present ability of a system to protect against its increasingly diverse set of vulnerabilities and threat vectors. A diverse set of countermeasures is preferable and should address security policies, physical assets, network infrastructure, computer systems, software applications, and end devices. Interestingly, 80% of all threats originate internally, and accidentally! Therefore, these threats are a key focus for CED when creating security action plans.  


Modernization promises transformational change for manufacturers, but security on the plant floor cannot be overlooked during this shift. 

Our team can help you identify, analyze, and address the security vulnerabilities and threats within your enterprise. Our approach will be “industrial-native”, reducing your security risk to an optimal level while also balancing your performance, reliability, and safety needs on the plant floor. So, stop losing sleep worrying about security threats.

Prepare now and rest assured that your assets, information, and people are protected.