Cybersecurity requires fundamental systems architecture changes

  • July 14, 2014
  • Feature

By Bill Lydon, Editor

Industry 4.0, Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet are all driving computing to automation edge devices. These devices include controllers, sensors, actuators, motor controls, and drives. The fact that these devices could now be on a more widely known IP network creates the opportunity for viruses and malicious control of industrial equipment.

 Firewalls and other methods build a DMZ (demilitarized zone) creating a "neutral zone" between a company's private network and the outside public network. Firewalls and other similar measures intercept outside traffic and broker requests for “protected” internal networks. These measures provide protection for computers behind the firewall. A fundamental dilemma with this logic is the existence of numerous well-documented cyber threats that enter systems from inside these DMZ's. Products can be added at each automation controller for added cyber protection, but these add a layer of complexity and cost.

Intel recently introduced processor chips with built-in cybersecurity. This may be the beginning of a fundamental change in protection and architecture. The incorporation of cybersecurity protection inside industrial automation edge devices may be the next big trend. The push of computing to end devices is clear and follows the trend line of personal computing, tablets, and smart phones.

According to a 2011 McKinsey Global Institute report, the number of connected machines has grown by 300% over the past five years. This growth was in the estimated $36 trillion spend in operating costs in affected industries and was largely due to the application of IoT technologies and their ability to drive greater efficiency. As more devices become connected and interoperable, cybersecurity challenges increase dramatically.

Intel Gateway Solutions - Internet of Things (IoT)

The Intel Gateway Solutions for the Internet of Things (IoT) are building blocks for this new highly distributed architecture. It is an integrated approach based on the company’s Quark and Atom processors. At the Internet of Things North America Conference held in May, 2014, Ton Steenman, VP and GM Intel Intelligent Systems Group, commented that the goal is to provide platforms that are scalable and economical for developers to create IoT solutions.

The Intel processors are bundled with pre-validated integrated software from Wind River and McAfee. McAfee Embedded Control maximizes security dynamically and includes monitoring and managing whitelists. Wind River provides the real-time embedded operating system and development tools. The Wind River real-time embedded operating system manages applications, security, and connectivity. Wind River Intelligent Device Platform XT 2.1 and Wind River Workbench are the development environments. The low-power, small-core Intel processor chips feature error-correcting code (ECC) and industrial temperature range. The Quark processor core is a 32-bit, single core, Pentium instruction set architecture (ISA) compatible CPU operating at speeds up to 400MHz.

Intel has created a unified licensing model to deliver this bundled solution to industry. The Wind River runtime and McAfee Embedded Control software are built into the processor price. This is a big change; in the past, to use Wind River operating systems, a developer had to invest upfront in a development system and purchase a large bundle of runtime licenses. The costs were typically in the six-figure range. Now that Intel owns these software companies, they can make this offering available in a manner that can be adopted by a broader number of developers.

Thoughts & Observations

Intel seems to be leading the charge to realize the vision and value of Industry 4.0, Internet of Things (IoT), and Industrial Internet. This charge will require more sophisticated cyber security protection at embedded processors in industrial automation edge devices. Intel is a founding member of the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) that is focused on industrial automation. Other founding members of the consortium include AT&T, CISCO, GE, and IBM.

The Intel development is significant and may accelerate the obsolescence of industrial automation edge devices. If that happens, controllers, sensors, actuators, motor controls, and drives would be replaced with smarter, cyber-protected devices.

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