How an edge ecosystem helps industrial environments

Courtesy of CFE Media and Technology

There is no excuse for cyber negligence. More and more companies are raising their voices and discussing their concerns and thoughts. At the forefront of this discussion is the importance of breaking down the different cybersecurity silos, opening up communication and working together — particularly within information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT).

Recently, AT&T Cybersecurity released their 48-page 2023 Edge Ecosystem report about what’s changing within the edge space and how it’s impacting industry sectors.

Ranking attack types and the potential damage

In AT&T’s study, they rank and discuss the potential damage of different attack types that are commonly used by cyber criminals and nation-state actors alike.

  1. Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS): Overloading a server with repeated requests and causing it to shut down is a hallmark choice for threat actors. This can lead to site downtime, or in the case of industrial facilities, a disruption in remotely connected devices.
  2. Business email compromise: This involves the use of compromised email credentials to impersonate an employee. Business email compromise can be particularly dangerous as it can lead to the threat actor gaining access to a system and potentially taking control of certain devices.
  3. Personal information exfiltration: This is exactly what it sounds like: taking sensitive company data and transferring it to a third party (i.e., the bad guys). This is usually leads to an attempt at ransomware on the part of the threat actor, with the real danger being extortion and loss of intellectual property.
  4. Phishing: Phishing — when a threat actor pretends to be a person or company to get an employee to click a link — is another very common attack vector, but it’s also the easiest to prevent. Phishing can lead to loss of data, system infiltration and, similar to personal information exfiltration, a ransomware attack down the road.
  5. Insider threat: No one wants “one of their own” to turn on them, but insider threats do still occur. The difficult part with this is that an insider potentially has access to everything with ease. This can lead to data theft or, in the case of industrial environments, free reign to do as they please with operations.

To prevent these types of attacks, “67% of total respondents implement at least two types of cybersecurity functions. One-third of respondents, three or more types of cybersecurity functions,” according to the report. These functions include firewalls, on-premises solutions like threat management and various types of united cyber and network security.

Primary use cases of an edge ecosystem in industrial environments and critical infrastructure

In critical infrastructure and industrial environments, the use cases of edge technology have changed in the following ways:

Health care: Within health care, edge is being used in tele-emergency medical services.

Energy and utilities: In this sector, edge is being used in intelligent grid management.

Transportation: In transportation, edge is being used for fleet tracking (in both private companies and public transportation).

Manufacturing: Smart warehousing is becoming a popular facet of manufacturing to include edge solutions.

U.S. SLED: U.S. state, local and education entities (SLED) are seeing an increased use of edge technology in building management.

The report also delves into the short-term future of edge use cases. Respondents list the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) as the top use case, with physical security functions, smart building/facility functions and industrial-oriented robotics functions close behind.

Health care edge ecosystem insights

The AT&T cybersecurity report states that the primary use case of an edge ecosystem in the health care sector is within tele-emergency medical services. This includes speeding up the diagnosis and commencement of non-emergency care by expanding the use of telemedicine to emergency medical personnel in field scenarios. From the security angle, the use of edge technologies can aid in the mitigation of the industry’s top perceived threat, insider attacks.

Energy and utilities edge ecosystem insights

According to AT&T Business, the primary use case of an edge ecosystem in the energy and utilities sector is with intelligent grid management. This looks like improving the predictability, quality and performance of power assets by employing comprehensive grid performance models and simulations to enhance the management of power flow. The study respondents said the primary security concern in this sector is the exfiltration of personal information. By using an edge ecosystem, companies can combine network and security on premises to protect against this type of attack.

Transportation edge ecosystem insights

The top use case of an edge ecosystem in the transportation sector is in fleet tracking. According to AT&T Business, this looks like utilizing GPS tracking and telematics software for almost instantaneous tracking of fleet vehicles, operators and additional equipment. The top threat within the transportation sector, according to respondents, is business email compromise. Edge security can help protect the cloud, and thus, mitigate business email compromise.

Manufacturing edge ecosystem insights

AT&T states that the primary use case of an edge ecosystem within a manufacturing environment is within smart warehousing. This looks like empowering warehouses with enhanced and self-sufficient operations through a comprehensive integration of insights into demand and usage, process management and physical automation. From a security perspective, combining the network and security functions within the edge ecosystem and in the cloud will mitigate the top perceived threat, DDoS attacks.

U.S. SLED edge ecosystem insights

The main use of an edge ecosystem within the U.S. SLED sector is in building management. This looks like enhancing the visibility of a building’s energy usage and operational status with cutting-edge technology that automates energy and operational tasks, aiming to optimize performance cost-effectively. Within the U.S. SLED sector, the primary threat is ransomware.

Recommendations to protect critical assets

At the end of AT&T’s report, they recommend many ways to protect and secure critical assets, including:

  • Conducting regular assessments of your environment
  • Unifying IT and OT teams
  • Having a third party evaluate your digital environment and present security measures
  • Using threat intelligence partners early in a project lifecycle

As cybersecurity, iIoT and internet-connected devices continue to evolve, implementing new strategies, like an edge ecosystem, will help mitigate present and future risk.




Keep your finger on the pulse of top industry news