Subscription Model and Remote Access In Industrial Control
A Secure Journey Towards Innovation and Efficiency
Manufacturers of traditional industrial control systems are experimenting with subscription models, license servers. These in turn requre remote access.
The industry 4.0 quest for revenue creates risks for operation.
Executive Summary: Subscription Model and Remote Access In Industrial Control
The industrial equipment industry is undergoing a paradigm shift towards subscription models, driven by Industry 4.0 and the demand for flexible solutions. This shift necessitates secure remote access for manufacturers to provide ongoing support, maintenance, and updates. However, securing remote access in industrial networks presents unique challenges due to the prevalence of legacy devices, shared credentials, and complex access requirements for multiple stakeholders. This subscription model and remote access in industrial control shift is increasing the security risks for all players. This white paper explores these challenges and proposes a comprehensive strategy for secure remote access based on Zero Trust architecture and unified authentication.
Industrial equipment manufacturers are increasingly adopting subscription models to offer greater flexibility and value to their customers. This subscription model and remote access in industrial control shift is driven by several ($$$) factors, including:
- The rise of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT): IIoT enables remote data collection and analysis, allowing manufacturers to optimise performance, predict maintenance needs, and deliver value-added services.
- Customer preference for flexibility: Subscription models provide customers with access to the latest equipment and services without upfront capital investment, enabling them to scale their operations as needed.
- Focus on operational efficiency: Manufacturers can optimise resource allocation and improve service delivery through remote access capabilities.
The Need for Secure Remote Access
Remote access is essential for supporting subscription models in several ways:
- Providing ongoing support and maintenance: Manufacturers can remotely diagnose and troubleshoot issues, reducing downtime and improving equipment uptime.
- Performing software updates and feature upgrades: Remote updates ensure that equipment operates at peak performance and benefits from the latest functionalities.
- Collecting data for performance optimisation and predictive maintenance: Remote data collection enables manufacturers to identify potential issues and optimise equipment performance before failures occur.
- Enforcing licensing requires outbound access from the equipment.
Challenges of Remote Access in Industrial Networks
Real-World Examples of Security Breaches
The Colonial Pipeline attack in 2021 demonstrates the devastating consequences of insecure remote access practices. Hackers gained access through a compromised VPN account, disrupting fuel supply and causing widespread economic damage. Similarly, the Florida water plant hack in 2021 highlights the dangers of shared passwords. Hackers accessed the plant’s control system using a shared password for TeamViewer, potentially endangering public safety.
A Secure Approach with Zero Trust
Zero Trust architecture offers a robust solution for secure remote access in industrial networks. Its core principle is “never trust, always verify,” requiring continuous authentication and authorisation for all access requests. Zero Trust architecture offers several benefits:
- Least privilege access: Users are granted only the minimum level of access necessary to perform their tasks, limiting the impact of potential breaches.
- Microsegmentation: The network is divided into smaller, isolated segments, preventing lateral movement and restricting access to critical resources. See “Industrial Zero-Trust Micro-Segmentation”
- Unified authentication: All users are authenticated against a central corporate identity provider, eliminating the need for shared credentials and simplifying access management.
- Air-Gap style security, open Internet style convenience.
- Updates the “Purdue Model” to modern usability.
IEC 62443 and Open Standards for Secure Access
The IEC 62443 standard provides a framework for secure network architecture and communication protocols in industrial control systems. Implementing IEC 62443 recommendations alongside Zero Trust principles further enhances security by defining zones and conduits, thereby minimising communication pathways and attack surfaces. Additionally, the adoption of open standards for secure remote access protocols promotes interoperability and simplifies integration across different vendor solutions.
Executive Order 14028 and Government Mandates
Executive Order 14028 issued by the US government mandates the adoption of Zero Trust principles in federal agencies, setting a precedent for the importance of secure remote access in critical infrastructure sectors. This mandate emphasises the growing recognition of Zero Trust as a key component of cybersecurity strategy and its potential impact on security standards in the industrial equipment industry. It can be a key part of implementing subscription model and remote access in industrial control.
Strategies for Multi-Company Access Management
The Agilicus AnyX platform provides isolated environments for each company, ensuring data privacy and preventing unauthorised interaction. Each staff member of each company signs in with their native corporate identity, seeing AnyX as a single-sign-on endpoint just like their corporate email. Additionally, implementing role-based access controls and granular permission settings further enhances access management and minimises security risks.
Monitoring and Auditing for Continuous Security
Continuous monitoring of system activities and user logs is essential for detecting anomalies and identifying potential security threats. Implement access and audit logging, ideally in a SIEM architecture. If you are going to have multiple entities each with access, due to subscription model and remote access in industrial control, its key to have audit logging to track who has done what.
The Future of Secure Remote Access
The future of remote access in the industrial equipment industry promises to be innovative and secure. Emerging technologies like AI and machine learning will further enhance security capabilities by enabling automated threat detection and response. Additionally, the development of open standards and secure communication protocols will promote interoperability and simplify integration across different systems.
Recommendations for Manufacturers and Stakeholders
- Adopt Zero Trust Architecture: Implement Zero Trust principles to ensure continuous authentication and authorisation for all access requests.
- Implement Unified Authentication: Eliminate shared credentials and simplify access management by using a central corporate identity provider.
- Segment Networks: Divide the network into smaller, isolated segments to enhance security and limit lateral movement.
- Deploy Secure Multi-tenancy Solutions: Manage access for multiple companies to the same equipment securely using dedicated platforms.
- Monitor and Audit Activities: Continuously monitor system activities and user logs to detect anomalies and identify potential threats.
- Implement Secure Communication Protocols: Use robust encryption and secure communication protocols for all data exchanges.
- Stay Updated on Threats and Vulnerabilities: Regularly assess security risks and patch vulnerabilities to maintain a resilient posture.
- Collaborate and Share Best Practices: Work together with industry partners, cybersecurity experts, and government agencies to develop and implement best practices for secure remote access.
The rise of subscription model and remote access in industrial control industry presents unique challenges and opportunities. While remote access is crucial for supporting this model, it also introduces cybersecurity risks. By embracing Zero Trust architecture and implementing robust security practices, manufacturers and stakeholders can unlock the benefits of remote access while ensuring the safety and integrity of their operations. This approach will pave the way for a future of innovation and efficiency in the industrial equipment industry, driven by secure and reliable remote access solutions.