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Understanding IIoT Cybersecurity for Connected Robots

Understanding IIoT Cybersecurity for Connected RobotsIndustrial robots are no longer repetitive, inflexible systems that only perform one task over and over. Today’s industrial robots are dynamic. They are equipped with vision systems and better programming that give them more flexibility than ever, and most recently, they’ve been given connectivity to a variety of internal enterprise and cloud systems.

Savvy manufacturers are leveraging industrial internet of things (IIoT) technology to generate insightful robotic data. This data makes maintenance easier, increases production efficiency and improves product quality. Connected robots bring many benefits, but as connectivity increases, so do cybersecurity risks.

Why Cybersecurity is so Important for Industrial Connected Robots

Cybersecurity threats have become more sophisticated in recent years. Many attacks can make their way right to the shop floor, putting all production processes at risk. These types of cyber-physical attacks are relatively new, with the first one occurring in 2016, and most robotic operations are unprepared to defend against such an attack.

The thought of a cybersecurity breach in robotic automation may bring to mind images of robots going haywire, but in reality these attacks would be far more stealthy. For example, a malicious attack could alter the rotation of a robot by just a few degrees which could exceed part tolerances, compromising quality and threatening downstream processes. This could happen for thousands of parts over an extended period of time, depending on the volume of the manufacturing facility.

Ensuring Cybersecurity for Connected Robots

Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, starting with device manufacturers – the designers and suppliers of robots, controllers and robotic equipment like machine vision sensors. Robot system integrators and end users are just as responsible for ensuring cybersecurity is at proper levels, however.

The “defense in depth” concept is one of the best strategies for cybersecurity. IIoT architecture is inherently multilayered and complex – attackers find the weakest link. With a defense in depth approach to cybersecurity, there are several layers of defense throughout the IIoT architecture. This prevents attackers from accessing critical information or systems, or at the very least slows them down enough for detection and response measures to kick in.

Cybersecurity is vitally important when deploying connected robotic systems. They have proven to be a weak link in the cybersecurity chain. Industrial robots in the wrong hands can cause widespread damage to any operation.

There are other ways to ensure cybersecurity. It’s first important to understand the relationship of robotics and cybersecurity. To learn more on this subject, read our industry insights article, “Cybersecurity a Must for Safe IIoT Robots.”


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