Security needs to be boosted in connected industrial environments


The industrial sector is increasingly automated and connected to gain in competitiveness. This digitization must be done securely to prevent disruption to operations and risks to the industrial environment. A view on the state of industrial cyber security, a strategic domain of expertise at Orange Cyberdefense.

An increasingly robotized and digital sector

All parts of the economy have a production or operational environment: healthcare, transport, buildings, utilities … Our society as whole relies on the smooth running of production processes which are usually enabled by heavy machinery and long-term capital investment. Expertise acquired over several decades in these sectors is today disrupted by the intensification of digitization.

According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), the sales of industrial robots will increase globally by 14% per year between by 2021. In 2018 alone, industrial companies have acquired some 421,000 new robots. This represents a rise of 10% versus 2017, which was already a record year with an increase of 30% vs. 2016. France has 137 robots per 10,000 employees; South Korea has 710.

State of industrial cyber security

Orange Cyberdefense industrial security experts have carried out numerous projects in both large manufacturing conglomerates and small and medium businesses (SMBs).  This first-hand experience provides a significant visibility of the state of industrial cyber security.

From our experience, the top vulnerability is poor awareness of cyber security in industrial environments. Security hygienics – such as authentication, rights management, OT/IT segmentation – are not pervasively in place, and we’ve even noticed some environments with so-called “flat” networks and lacking IT system hardening.  In addition, the management of human-machine interface (HMI)  still leaves a lot to be desired. The continuous connection of these HMIs is generally the rule, without consideration of how they are managed, especially when they are accessible remotely.

The second top weakness relates to emerging equipment purchase and maintenance models . Suppliers increasingly offer services to integrate new machines into the industrial environment, and provide managed services such as remote and predictive maintenance to improve productivity. The issue is that cyber security is often an after-thought: it is not considered in the design stage, nor in contractual elements such as availability SLAs and security compliance.

 The last point regards the lack of security breach detection capabilities. With the rise of cyber threats and the increase in connectivity in 4.0 industries, the implementation of cyber defense solutions and appropriate security governance are essential. Integration of security logs from industrial environments into security event management services backed by CyberSOCs is an emerging trend.

Major Vulnerabilities in Industrial Cyber security: A Snapshot

A complete list of the key technical and organizational gaps found in organisations audited by Orange Cyberdefense is summarised below. 

State of industrial cybersecurity from 2015 to 2018

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Nicolas Arpagian, Directeur de la Stratégie d'Orange Cyberdefense

About the blogger

Nicolas Arpagian is Strategy and Public Affairs Director at Orange Cyberdefense.

He is a lecturer at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Police (ENSP) and the Ecole Nationale de la Magistrature (ENM),  a member of the orientation council at Institut Diderot and a founder and director of the series “Digital Security” at the l’Institut National des Hautes Etudes de la Sécurité et de la Justice (INHESJ).

Nicolas is the author of several articles and books, including « La Cyberguerre – La guerre numérique a commencé », Editions Vuibert.

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