5 Ways to Secure Digital Twins While Fostering Manufacturing Innovation

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As technology continues to revamp existing business models, more and more new manufacturing and projection methods are being used. Digital twins are perhaps the best example of how companies combine technology with the natural world to create innovative solutions. A digital twin is an electronic version of a real work entity. It allows companies to model business conditions and predict the impact of their choices.

Capgemini research reveals that the use of digital twins will increase by 36% over the next five years. Greater adoption will undoubtedly help companies create better products. However, increased use often leads to significant security risks.

Related: Why Blockchain and Digital Twins are good partners

Data flows freely between the real-world entity and the digital twin. For example, manufacturers create data flows between a real-world assembly line and its digital twin. This situation makes digital twins prime targets for malicious hackers who can wreak havoc on business systems.

Here are five ways your company can secure its digital twins while ensuring maximum productivity.

Evaluate all security practices

One of the biggest risks for digital twins is the possibility of hacking real-world security lines. For example, a malicious actor could exploit the data flow between a real-world manufacturing line and its digital twin, significantly damaging any mechanical or IoT element. To mitigate this risk, companies must thoroughly review all security processes, including access protocols. Companies need to analyze who is accessing the digital twin and why.

Access management is critical to a company’s cybersecurity posture. Organizations should take the time to thoroughly review everything related to it, along with checking server security.

The data generated by a digital twin will be stored on physical servers. Companies also need to examine their data pipeline. How well are they secured and are there gaps in this infrastructure? Connecting the pipeline to prevent criminal access in a malware attack is critical.

Related: Into the Metaverse: How Digital Twins Can Change the Business Landscape

Examine IoT security

Digital twins rely on IoT sensors and other devices in process chains to collect, transmit and analyze data. IoT offers several advantages, but these devices can act as a breach in the security infrastructure. Most IoT devices are not designed with the bigger picture in mind.

For example, a single IoT device can protect the data it collects very well. However, manufacturers cannot anticipate how this data will be used and the devices with which the product will interact. So they cannot configure the device for network security and let the user do it.

Businesses need to check whether their IoT device configurations align with network security practices. Using devices with hard-coded security settings and preconfigured network passwords exposes them to significant risk.

Security model with twins

An undervalued area when discussing the use of digital twins is security modeling. While securing the digital twin to prevent real-world impact is gaining a lot of attention, companies need to recognize that they can model attacks on digital twins to assess the impact on real-world systems.

Organizations must run scenarios that model different threats. They will learn more about their network and its vulnerabilities. Standard cybersecurity measures, such as penetration testing and continuous security monitoring, allow organizations to attack their systems in a controlled environment.

Related: Five Ways to Protect Your Business Against Cyber ​​Attacks

Companies must follow up these tests with a detailed analysis of what happened. Creating a change management plan based on the findings is essential to improving the security of a digital twin and its real-world counterpart.

Check network security

Digital twins are a relatively new concept despite their growing popularity. Many manufacturing networks have not adjusted to their presence, leading to confusing security protocols. For example, most manufacturers struggle to define where their network twin will live and how it will communicate with its real-world counterpart.

Should the twin use communication networks beyond the manufacturer’s network when collecting data? How will these lines of communication be guaranteed? Answering these questions will reveal gaps in your network’s security processes.

The default security architecture hosts twins behind networks following Purdue Enterprise Reference Architecture (PERA) standards. However, as technology has evolved, PERA does not change fast enough to protect data. PERA places the sensors at level zero, preventing all network connectivity. This model is not suitable for modern manufacturers.

Another solution is to use the air gap method, where the sensors are housed in particular network sections. This keeps network traffic isolated from outside communication channels. However, the result is manual uploads of data for analysis, and the digital twin inevitably lags behind real-world conditions.

Developing a network architecture that meets modern needs is essential. Companies need to collaborate with design experts and find better ways to protect network data.

Related: Why your business growth depends on your IT infrastructure

Embrace zero trust

One way to solve the network security problem is to adopt zero-trust solutions. As more important parts of the cybersecurity infrastructure move toward automation, zero trust is quickly emerging as the best solution for sophisticated networks.

A zero-trust system allows devices on a network to communicate seamlessly while validating each other’s identities. Zero trust also helps organizations define activity levels and the degree to which data is shared. For example, they can specify the degree of privileges of a machine on a network, preventing unwanted data sharing.

The result is a data footprint that can be controlled, along with risk-based access management. By managing the degree of communication between systems, companies can prevent the spread of malware if any component of a digital twin becomes infected.

Innovative solutions need strong security

There is no doubt that digital twins can create better manufacturing processes. However, companies must secure data and access before realizing these benefits. Cybersecurity is a business pillar, and it’s critical when talking about digital twins.

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