9 Do’s and Don’ts for Launching IIoT Devices

So you’ve got a great idea for a game-changing Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) device?

The good news is that your reward could be carving yourself a lucrative slice of the global IIoT market – which Statista predicts will be worth $110.6 billion by 2025. 

There are risks though. They’re part and parcel of any potential plan and those associated with IIoT are big enough to stop you in your tracks. In a nutshell, if you fail to focus on security during design and development, you could be sowing the seeds for disastrous Defcon 1-style security breaches that compromise security, privacy, and profitability.

But since there’s always a way to minimize dangers to make great ideas happen, we’ve gathered together nine do’s and don’ts to guide you towards success:

  • Don’t rush headlong to market
  • Do pick a security-centric base distribution
  • Don’t forget the new IoT cybersecurity standard
  • Do include a remote update mechanism
  • Don’t use insecure components
  • Do run analytics to reveal security hardening tips
  • Don’t forget that security issues multiply at scale
  • Do use an IoT dedicated Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR) Tool
  • Don’t forget to capitalize on Cyber-as-a-Feature (CaaF)

In this blog, you’ll enjoy a breakdown of each of the points above – it’s a handy checklist that you can tick off as you steer your IIoT connected device project to success. 

If this sounds useful, let’s get started.

1. Don’t rush headlong to market

You’re developing your IIoT device to solve complex problems in a niche market – whether that’s optimizing existing corporate IT infrastructure, streamlining processes in a smart factory, or optimizing crop yields in agriculture. 

But don’t take a blinkered approach to development where functionality and profitability are your main drivers, but security is left on the sidelines. The reputational and financial consequences of falling foul of hackers could sink you and your client simultaneously.

Treat security as a crucial stitch in time that could save you significant amounts of time and money and enhance your brand appeal – more of which a little later. 

2. Do pick a security-centric base distribution

Choosing a security-centric Linux distribution provides a solid foundation for connected device security. If you create your own bespoke Linux distribution in order to optimize your product exactly the way you want to, any advantages in terms of flexibility are outweighed by the extra resources you’ll need to maintain security. 

These days, even many big brands with the wherewithal to take the customized route prefer the peace of mind that comes with a well-maintained and supported base distribution. 

3. Don’t forget the new IoT cybersecurity standard

If you’re an IIoT product team developing devices for the Federal Government, you’ve got until December 2022 to ensure that all of your devices meet the new IoT cybersecurity standard.

But even if your commercial focus is on commercial customers, you should treat these new requirements as a high bar that every customer will soon regard as a reassuring seal of approval. The good news is that if IoT endpoint security is at the heart of your lifecycle device protection, you’ve already got a head start on compliance. 

4. Do include a remote update mechanism

Cybersecurity doesn’t stop when your device moves from the manufacturing to the distribution stage. It continues throughout the entire product lifecycle. 

So using a remote update mechanism means that your base distribution and device firmware  will easily receive security patches which protect your device from the latest emerging cyber threats. However, keep in mind that this mechanism has to be secure as well and there is no intercepting this tunnel by an unwanted third party. 

5. Don’t use insecure components

Every component you select has the potential to adversely affect your IIoT device’s reliability and security. The case of supply chain attacks is becoming frighteningly common, one such scenario is the vulnerability of AMD processors that enabled side-channel attacks.

It’s vital that you work with a supplier who can work transparently and disclose where all the components have been sourced from. Remember that failing to manage risks at each stage of development will have a larger impact as you scale and grow – stay vigilant about every component detail from the start.

6. Do run analytics to reveal security hardening tips

A solid first step to hardening your software and systems against cyberattacks is running static analysis on your source code.

There are a few robust ways that you can maintain excellent baseline security throughout your device’s development, automatically modifying configuration options is perhaps the most hassle-free approach or by following published guidelines. 

7. Don’t forget security issues multiply at scale

It seems obvious, but please don’t forget that potential security issues can multiply at scale. 

So while deploying your device to a huge client like the US Federal Government or a multinational corporation is exciting (not to mention lucrative!), the potential consequences of a security failure are similarly gargantuan.

Therefore, you’ll need to ensure that security is maintained throughout your production and manufacturing process – particularly if this involves third-party contractors. A couple of measures to mitigate risk might be embedding signed code in each device and ensuring that there’s capacity to inject secure keys at manufacturing sites.

8. Do use an IoT dedicated Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR) Tool

Security by design (SBD) is critical, but not robust enough to protect against the next generation of malware threats. To ensure ongoing safety, IIoT devices require a proactive layer of perpetual protection. In the same way that there is no chance that a server or a computer would be installed without a proactive EDR security solution to constantly monitor for new malware variants, IIoT necessitates the same level of security having a risk profile that is arguably more threatening than your standard desktop.  

9. Do leverage and capitalize Cyber-as-a-Feature (CaaF)

Giving Cyber-as-a-Feature equal billing with benefits like functionality, connectivity and integration ensures that your entire team remains focused on security from your device’s very inception. 

Because compliance with exacting new standards is a major influence on purchasing decision-makers for IIoT devices, you want that to be central to your pitch so that they can place those big-budget orders with confidence. Therefore, there’s a tangible commercial benefit in using CaaF for marketing your IIoT product through clear compliance labeling and showcasing security systems and features. 

Key Takeaways

These nine do’s and don’ts are designed to steer your IIoT product team away from potential security dangers and towards success. Here are a few key takeaways to give your IIoT device the best chance of success:

  • Avoid rushing to market and ensure that cybersecurity is a priority from the earliest stages.
  • Consider compliance with the new IoT cyber standard as mandatory right now if your target customer is part of the Federal Government – and as the gold standard to aspire to for home smart devices. 
  • Omit insecure components by working with trusted suppliers and securing each stage of the supply chain.
  • Remember that security issues increase at scale – consequences for IIoT applications in public services and global organizations can be catastrophic.
  • Ensure that you implement a dedicated IoT EDR solution to protect against cyber attacks, particularly new types of malware, after deployment.
  • Leverage CaaF as a differentiator – the marketing value of Cyber-as-a-feature will increase dramatically as regulations become more stringent and buyer awareness increases even more. 

Developing any viable and useful IoT device is a considerable undertaking and the risks and rewards in the IIoT market are considerable. But manufacturing and deploying a device that could be used at scale by large organizations is challenging – especially when regulators and the public are increasingly aware of data risks.

However, by placing cybersecurity at the heart of your IIoT device development, you’re taking the right path.

So work through these nine do’s and don’ts for developing secure IIoT devices and you’ll be on the right path to sustainable success – with products that minimize the risks of connectivity while maximizing the benefits. 

If you’re an IIoT product leader looking for help with your development, let’s talk!

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