To create safe IIoT robots, they must also be secure. Cyber-physical systems are on the rise. Industry 4.0 and the vision of smart, connected factories continue to drive the robotics boom.
Savvy manufacturers are using networked robots and the insightful data they generate to simplify robot maintenance, maximize production efficiency and improve product quality. As more robots are connected to each other, the enterprise and the cloud, cybersecurity risks mount.
These threats go beyond data breaches and production delays. Cyberattacks targeting highly nimble, powerful robotic systems come with serious safety concerns. With the increasing popularity of human-robot collaboration and mobile robots, these concerns are heightened. AI-enabled robots are gaining more autonomy. The real power of today’s robots resides in software that is potentially susceptible to cyberattack.
With the convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT), cybersecurity is no longer “somebody else’s problem.” In this age of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility. Threats can penetrate all the way to the shop floor. Cybersecurity requires everyone’s vigilance.
“Cybersecurity has only recently entered people’s minds within operational technology and robotics,” said Nigel Stanley, chief technology officer (CTO) for global OT and industrial cybersecurity at TÜV Rheinland. “It was always seen as an information technology problem. Over the past five years, there has been a big uptick in hackers breaking into operational technology systems.”
TÜV Rheinland is a leader in independent testing, inspection and certification services. Stanley’s area of interest is on the operational technology side of security and includes autonomous vehicles, railroad systems, smart manufacturing, robotics, power stations and, as he puts it, everything in between.
Cybersecurity affects manufacturers of all sizes, from large multinationals to small and midsized enterprises (SMEs).
“If you take a typical supply chain, you may have a facility that is quite secure, but the supply chain is insecure,” Stanley said. “If hackers were launching an attack against a plant, looking at the supply chain and at smaller manufacturers that provide equipment, such as robots, would be an easier target. This is something that big and small manufacturers need to consider.”
Robot manufacturers, integrators, operators share responsibility
When it comes to responsibility for cybersecurity, the onus rests on many levels. In the robotics space, basically three groups share responsibility. It starts with device manufacturers. These are the designers and makers of robots, robot controllers and ancillary devices such as machine vision sensors that give robots sight.