Modern technologies solve industrial cybersecurity needs

Emerging condition monitoring software and devices have ingrained cybersecurity that helps bring legacy systems and processes into the modern era.

By Edward Valencia August 2, 2019

As the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) expands, facilities are looking to include legacy processes or systems into modern infrastructures. However, older assets may be unable to connect to the internet or other industrial technologies, making it difficult to keep them up and running. While the IIoT is triggering this connectivity barrier, it’s also solving it by helping ensuring these old assets have the same security features modern technologies provide.

Many older industrial systems are siloed. This mean they’re not allowed to go outside of defined networks, which are locked down. Users, constrained by limited connectivity, have relied on outside vendors to set up the system with updates, which require expensive support contracts. Systems that are not upgraded end up receiving ad hoc improvements that don’t easily integrate with other software. Unupgraded systems add risk.

However, emerging technologies help take care of integration and security problems by allowing teams to include legacy systems without the need for updates, upgrades, or new networks.

Legacy systems, network connectivity

Network connectivity on shop floors is not a given. Many locations either have sub-optimal internet connections or none at all. Furthermore, information technology (IT) departments are reluctant to let third-party servicers use the internal network. To address this, industrial sensors must be able to connect to more than a local area network (LAN) or Wi-Fi connection.

“A lot of factories don’t want you on their networks,” said John Baker, B3 founder and owner. “So, we take our own Wi-Fi hot spots, plug in our meter, and hook it all up. It takes two minutes to get it all set up, and it’s off and running.”

Connecting assets to a one program may seem difficult, but it’s not. Third-party IIoT-enhanced software and sensors can help mitigate integration problems by sidestepping the issue outright. Installing a third-party, internet-enabled sensor onto equipment also allows legacy systems to be integrated into modern programs without updating or upgrading existing equipment or networks.

Legacy systems and cybersecurity

By definition, cybersecurity protects against criminal or unauthorized use of electronic data or systems. When legacy systems were installed, administrators were more concerned with internal users accessing sections they shouldn’t have been in, such as hacker Marcus Hess infiltrating a Berkeley server in 1986 and gaining access to ARPANET and 400 military computers.

As time went on, external hacking efforts became more prevalent. The first computer worm, The Morris Worm, spread across networks in 1988, and the Dyn attack of 2016 took down much of the United States’ networks.

The ability to stop attacks from the outside and protect information from unauthorized internal access is paramount. Many maintenance devices teams install on older assets have innate cybersecurity protocols to protect from attacks.

Cloud-stored data is secured against intrusion via active monitoring, security protocols, and layers of firewalls. Sensors and other handheld devices that send information to the cloud are encrypted with the latest transport layer security (TLS) security protocols.

Legacy systems, AWS security

Many industrial products use the Amazon Web Services (AWS) suite of applications. AWS includes security features, such as security bulletins. AWS safeguards data stored on associated servers with firewalls and encrypting information transmitted to and from it over networks. It provides identity and access control features so individual users can only access what is required for their jobs.

Three benefits of using AWS are:

  1. The provider manages the more complex infrastructure needed for services
  2. Offerings are scalable (in or out)
  3. Data center expenses are not incurred by users.

AWS protects against distributed denial of service (DDoS) assaults that overload servers, encryption ransomware that locks data, and virus or malware attacks.

Legacy system integration

Modern industrial asset monitoring products have integrated security features, whether they are based on web services or cloud solutions. Communication between devices or systems and the cloud, where data is stored, uses the latest encryption protocols to secure data.

Integrated security and connectivity are the new standards; the new industrial norm by which all new products should adhere. Any IIoT device should come ingrained with high-level cybersecurity for protection against internal or external intrusion.

While legacy system integration with modern IIoT technologies has been a frequent problem, emerging technologies can help solve this issue. They provide connectivity to industrial data sources and teams along with built-in security features. Newer software and devices allow users to benefit from these tools to help lower cybersecurity risks.

Edward Valencia, senior systems engineer, Fluke Corp. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media,


Keywords: cybersecurity, system integration

Legacy systems connected to the internet are vulnerable against potential cyber attacks.

Emerging technologies can help legacy systems integrate with modern Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies.

Many maintenance devices teams install on older assets have innate cybersecurity protocols to protect from attacks.

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What unique challenges have you faced when integrating legacy systems with the IIoT?

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About the author

As an IT systems engineer with nearly two decades of experience in the telecom, internet, and IT field, Edward Valencia helps make reliable and scaleable systems. He is the senior systems engineer for the Fluke Accelix data platform and helps ensure best practices are applied to cloud infrastructure and pushes latest technologies to maintain system stability.

Original content can be found at Control Engineering.

Author Bio: Edward Valencia, senior systems engineer, Fluke Corp.