As we look to the future, and as railway organizations continue their pursuit of digital transformation, the industrial internet of things has emerged as a game-changer.
Although only in its early stage, rail IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) could unleash a broad range of benefits, including reliable predictive maintenance of operational components, lower operational expenses, greater business continuity, capacity gains, and enhanced passenger safety.
Driven by the rapid adoption of the latest generation of mobile networks, such as 4G and 5G broadband, or industrial Wifi, there is growing interest in the railway industry to embed physical objects with connected technology that would allow railway operators and infrastructure managers to monitor railway systems and equipment in the network over the internet.
However, this connectivity and reliance on data comes with significant security risks. Unless appropriate cybersecurity measures are taken, rail IIoT opens the door to cyberattacks that could impact critical railway infrastructure, especially through the supply chain.
What is IIoT?
The term Industrial Internet of Things or IIoT refers to interconnected sensors, instruments, and other devices that are connected to industrial applications and allow infrastructure managers and operators to always take the status of the system into account.
How does it benefit the railway industry?
The term IIoT refers to interconnected sensors, instruments, and other devices that are connected to industrial applications and allow infrastructure managers and operators to always take the status of the system into account.
In the realm of the railway industry, this connectivity enables the collection, exchange, and analysis of data, which can be a key success factor for railway operators and infrastructure managers.
In fact, railway IIoT appears to be the natural progression of railway digital transformation, with the potential to improve operational efficiency and reduce costs associated with delays, downtime, and maintenance.
How does it open the door to supply chain attacks
Today, with legacy as well as state-of-the-art operational devices increasingly being connected to the internet, the supply chain is becoming even more vulnerable to cyberattacks. The main reason: IIoT creates more access points for attackers, who can easily exploit vulnerabilities anywhere in the system and move laterally within organizational networks.
Operational equipment is often built with source components derived from third-party software, hardware, and network interfaces. The use of third-party software and hardware creates additional opportunities for malicious actors to find backdoors that allow them to infiltrate secure networks beyond the operator’s immediate supervision.
The threat is compounded by the fact that railway organizations work with a multitude of systems that all have their own supply chain. Without a railway cybersecurity solution that can safeguard all these systems, each connected device represents an entryway into the critical railway infrastructure.
The potential consequences of an attack include physical damage to hardware and software, disruptions, delays, and lost revenue, passenger endangerment, and loss of trust.
How to reduce vulnerabilities associated with rail IIoT
Forward-looking railway organizations that are beginning to integrate rail IIoT will be the first to enjoy the enhanced productivity and reliability it affords. However, they must take a proactive stance when it comes to the cybersecurity of these technologies.
With a railway-centered cybersecurity solution, you can fortify the complex rail supply chains by continuously monitoring, mapping, and securing IIoT devices across the network.
Here’s how a railway-centered solution empowers railway organizations to benefit from IIoT:
- Continuously monitor and map all interconnected assets, including connectivities and operational dependencies for known vulnerabilities and ongoing breaches.
- Use a fully passive and non-intrusive framework for monitoring cybersecurity across OT environments.
- Impose a zero-trust threat detection mechanism to identify anomalous patterns and suspicious activity for each end-to-end connection. A zero-trust approach allows you to identify any malicious operational traffic throughout the application layer.
- Utilize one-way data flows when integrating with any assets that connect to the critical operational environment.
Strengthen your cybersecurity to reap the benefits of rail IIoT
The potential to enhance operational efficiency, productivity, passenger safety, and reduce costs—all without investing in new expensive railroads—makes rail IIoT a promising development in the industry.
However, railway organizations that deploy IIoT must take a proactive and strategic approach to managing the cybersecurity of their supply chain. Without a system that is built to identify vulnerable “backdoors” to connected devices throughout the network, the benefits of rail IIoT could be easily undermined by the constant threat and consequences of cyberattacks.