Why Embed? The Value of Native Security in Industrial Controls

Why Embed? The Value of Native Security in Industrial Controls


In recent years, threat actors have developed highly sophisticated tools to attack industrial control systems. Some attacks aim to steal data or infect user workstations, while other, more serious, threats are aimed lower in the network and attempt to disrupt physical processes. A successful low-level attack against a power plant, water system, chemical facility, or other critical infrastructure site could do millions of dollars of damage and put thousands of lives at risk. 

As more and more operational technology (OT) devices are connected to networks, the risk of this type of catastrophic breach increases. OT devices are particularly vulnerable to attacks, because they were not designed with security in mind and historically were operated on isolated networks. To manage the risk, critical infrastructure operators have been forced to protect their devices with increasingly complex security solutions. At best, these solutions are difficult and costly to maintain; at worst, they actually create new vulnerabilities due to improper configuration. 

ICS network owners are moving toward a new strategy for defending against cyber threats: embedded cybersecurity. Rather than securing their systems by adding new layers of infrastructure and support alongside them, network owners are seeking vendors of OT equipment that include built-in security technology. Systems with integrated security technology can secure themselves without the need for external infrastructure. 

For companies that manufacture industrial control systems, this shift toward embedded cybersecurity represents both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge lies in the fact that cybersecurity is not a core competency for a typical ICS manufacturer. But for manufacturers who solve the problem, there’s a tremendous opportunity to separate themselves from the competition and win a larger share of their customers’ spend. 

XDE embedded security modules from Owl Cyber Defense provide the ideal solution. By directly embedding Owl cybersecurity modules into PLCs, IIoT devices, and other OT devices, manufacturers and vendors can deliver a high level of assurance and differentiate themselves from the competition.

Anticipate customer demands: Some OT operators already require embedded security in the new devices they purchase. As the industry becomes more aware of the capabilities and benefits of embedded hardware security, more end users will expect and demand that their devices contain native security. Manufacturers who can provide these capabilities will build trust with their existing customers and find it far easier to win new business.

Leverage industry-leading technology: Cybersecurity is a complex and constantly evolving domain. Rather than attempting to build solutions on their own, manufacturers can take advantage of Owl’s decades of experience in the field, and offer customers access to technology developed for use in rigorous military and intelligence applications.

Be first to market: Designing, developing, and testing embedded hardware security is a time- and resource-intensive process. OT manufacturers who attempt to create their own embedded security solutions may be years away from a marketable product that is capable of standing up to modern threats. By incorporating Owl’s security modules into their products, OEMs can dramatically reduce development costs and time to market and adopt a technology platform that has been designed to defend systems against nation state level attacks.

Win a larger share of the security spend: Embedded security allows OT operators to reduce their dependence on software-based firewalls and other external security technology. OEMs who embed hardware-based security in their devices can win a larger percentage of customers’ total spend, while delivering a lower total cost. 

As OT devices get smarter and more connected, the shift toward embedded security is all but inevitable. To learn more about how Owl Cyber Defense is accelerating the process for ICS manufacturers and end users, check out our XDE Embedded Cybersecurity Modules Brochure. 

Dave Britton Vice President, Assured Collaboration Systems

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