Information below is based on the data collected in our State of Critical Infrastructure Security 2023. View the full report for greater detail and context.
As governments increase their focus on critical infrastructure, there’s a growing recognition of the importance of securing the devices placed within these facilities.
This heightened awareness is driving organizations to prioritize and invest in robust device security measures to protect their operations, mitigate risks, and improve the bottom line. Indeed, a substantial 82% of companies strongly agreed that device security provides a competitive edge. Yet only around 30% of companies believe they possess a mature device security program, indicating room for improvement.
However, 71% of respondents to our 2023 Industrial Device Security Survey believed that product security is essential for maintaining a robust OT network security. As a result, 81% of these respondents increased their device security budget in 2023 compared to the previous year. This increased investment demonstrates the growing recognition of the interdependence between device security and the overall security of industrial networks.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the pivotal role of device security in overall industrial network security. We’ll discuss the benefits of strong device security, review its key elements, and discuss how organizations can integrate device security into their overall industrial network security strategy to enhance their security posture, reduce risks, and protect their operations and stakeholders.
The Benefits of Strong Device Security
Strong device security not only provides a competitive advantage but also offers a multitude of benefits that safeguard businesses and their intellectual property. These include:
- Minimizing business risks: All respondents in the survey acknowledged that product security protects their brand and minimizes business risk. By ensuring that devices are secure, companies can mitigate the potential financial and reputational damages that may arise from security breaches.
- Safeguarding intellectual property: Survey respondents recognized the role of device security in protecting intellectual property rights, particularly in the EU and APAC regions, where 63% and 64% of respondents strongly agreed with its importance– compared to 40% in the United States. With trade secrets and sensitive data being the lifeblood of many businesses, strong device security ensures that critical information remains confidential and out of the reach of malicious actors.
- Operational continuity: 36% of respondents identified potential disruption of continuous operations (downtime) caused by a security incident as the primary driver for increased investment in device security.
Defense against ransomware attacks: By implementing robust device security measures, companies can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to ransomware attacks, safeguarding their critical data and avoiding potential financial and operational repercussions.
Key Elements of Device Security
Device security is a critical component of overall industrial network security. To ensure robust protection, several key elements must be implemented.
Firmware and software updates
Manufacturers should provide timely patches, updates, and SBOMs that reflect the changes to address newly discovered threats and vulnerabilities. Timely installation of updates along with a list of the most up to date software components ensures that devices remain resilient to evolving cyber threats, reducing the risk of exploitation and unauthorized access.
Device configuration and hardening
Proper device configuration and hardening practices significantly enhance device security. Default passwords should be changed, unnecessary services and ports should be disabled, and security features like firewalls and intrusion prevention systems should be enabled.
Continuous monitoring and intrusion detection mechanisms are crucial for early detection and response to potential security incidents. Monitoring tools can detect abnormal behavior, unauthorized access attempts, and anomalies in network traffic. Intrusion detection systems provide alerts when suspicious activities are detected on industrial equipment, allowing for timely investigation and mitigation of security threats.
Integration of Device Security into Industrial Network Security Strategy
Here are some ways manufacturers can integrate device security practices to ensure comprehensive industrial network security.
Security throughout the lifecycle
Integrating device security into the industrial network security strategy requires considering security aspects from the design stage up to post-production. Because some equipment may have been designed and built decades ago, it’s crucial to address both new projects and ongoing ones that now need to incorporate product security. This necessitates establishing two strategies: one for new products based on digital connections and a separate approach for legacy devices.
A defense-in-depth strategy is the practice of looking at a network with all its layers and building a plan accordingly. On an industrial network, connected devices sit on an outer layer of the network, standing on the front lines of a potential attack. Implementing device security plays a crucial role in this strategy by contributing to different layers of defense.
Security policies and procedures
Organizations should develop comprehensive security policies that outline requirements for device configuration, access control, software updates, and incident response. Automation and workflows that reduce human errors should be implemented to streamline device security processes. Additionally, incident response plans and protocols should be in place to effectively handle security incidents. It’s worth noting that approximately half (ranging from 48%-53%) of survey respondents identified product security management and product incident response as significant areas requiring improvement.
This can be directly addressed using Cybellum’s Product Security Platform, which acts as a single place to manage, execute, and ensure comprehensive product security.
Wrapping it up
Device security plays a critical role in securing industrial networks, protecting operations, and mitigating risks. It’s imperative for organizations to recognize the criticality of device security and take action to prioritize and implement robust measures to protect the stability, efficiency, and resilience of their industrial network operations.
For more insights into the maturity of industrial device cybersecurity processes and the main challenges faced by today’s industrial organizations, download our full State of Critical Infrastructure Security 2023 today.