Cyber security: increasingly vital for industry

With the onward march of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the increasing proliferation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) will bring benefits but also risks. The service sector has been dealing with threats of the digital age for a while. Now manufacturing companies are going to have to catch up.

“In the future, wars will focus on industrial plants worldwide. Who can we trust in the future and who not? Nikolaus Dürk, CEO of  X-Net, an Austrian IT company, answered his own question, stating, “We have to distrust all our companies [that provide ICT-solutions]!”

Dürk was speaking at a recent conference, “Ensuring industrial safety: the role of government, regulations, standards and new technologies”, organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization UNIDO).

As long ago as 2011, the United Nations identified the massive threat posed by cybercrime, estimating that it had become “a business which exceeds a trillion dollars a year in online fraud, identity theft, and lost intellectual property, affecting millions of people around the world, as well as countless businesses and the governments of every nation.”

Photo by Joseph Eddins

Seven years later, in 2018, Facebook notified its users of a data breach affecting over 50 million people. The breach also affected people who use Facebook to log into other accounts. In a nutshell, if you use the same password for multiple services and hackers gets their hand on it, they gain access to all of those accounts as well.

In 2017, United Nations personnel faced a “sustained” cyber-attack by unknown hackers. The victims in question were UN experts investigating violations of sanctions on North Korea. The hackers reportedly had a very detailed insight into the panel’s current investigation structure and their working methods. According to Titanilla Komenda, Scientific Assistant at Fraunhofer Austria Research Ltd, who also addressed the UNIDO conference, even state of the art equipment at major corporations is highly vulnerable to attacks.

In the context of the ever-increasing threat from cybercrime, when developing or implementing new technologies, risk assessment is essential. The fear of taking risks is reasonable, given the threat, but it can also bring things to a standstill. “Should we stop or rethink inventions, just because of risk?” Evgeny Goncharov, chief of the Department of Defense of Critical Infrastructure at the Russian cybersecurity and anti-virus provider, Kaspersky Lab , asked the conference. His answer was that innovation should not be brought to a halt by fear or negative outcomes.

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According to a study by the Kaspersky lab, countries that are poorer face more of a security risk than countries that are more affluent. If one goes strictly by the data, investing in technology from more affluent countries is therefore safer. Poorer countries nevertheless offer an opportunity for growth and threat mitigation strategies.

For X-Net’s Dürk, one solution would be Open Source Security Software, which organizations can use to essentially create their own security services. That way they don’t have to rely on public or private companies when it comes to software. The danger of relying on external entities for software is that the provider might be mining for company data, which would put employees as well as the company at risk.

With the evolution of the Internet of Things, people, goods and the internet will become increasingly connected. This will bring challenges to industrial enterprises, which will have to keep up with cyber threats and combat them as best they can.