A New and Resilient Approach to Securing our Critical infrastructure and IIoT Ecosystem

By Michael Murray, SVP and GM Cyber Physical Systems

We recently embarked on an industry panel discussion on the current and potential threats that exist to our government, critical infrastructure and IoT devices along with our advocacies to protect and defend them while creating more resilient systems.

We were fortunate to be joined by some of the top leaders in the government and industry including Bob Lentz, the former CISO of DoD and current CEO of Cyber Security Strategies; Joshua Corman, the SVP and Chief Security Officer at PTC, one of the most exciting IoT companies in the industry. Joshua also continues his work with I am the Cavalry and the Atlantic Council. Chris Rezendes, the Chief Business Officer of Context Labs and Spherical Analytics, also joined the discussion and he has been a vocal and pioneering leader in IoT for many years.

Mr. Lentz started our discussion with his views from the government’s perspective on the new and emerging IIoT threats, which clarified that the U.S. government has reacted quickly to the new threat surface of the convergence between IT and OT (Operational Technology) systems. The Department of Homeland Security US-CERT has issued multiple alerts and security tips on protecting critical infrastructure and NIST has released its guidance for IIoT applications as well.

In my view, Lentz’s slide on the cyber gap is the clearest way of how to think about the current threats to our critical infrastructure, which is how the cost to attack an asset is viewed by the adversary versus the cost to defend an asset.

Cyber advantage

What is interesting is how a low-cost asset in an OT or cyber physical network like a HVAC PLC controller in a server room can be used as an entry point and an adversary’s asset to slow or cripple IT systems by increasing the room temperature by spoofing the server cooling system to a point where servers fail. This is an interesting example of how the OT can influence and negatively affect the IT systems, of a bank for example.

We were very grateful to have Josh Corman join our discussion as he has been a pioneering and trusted leader in cyber security. Along with his CEO, Jim Heppelmann, PTC is setting a gold standard for corporate citizens to follow and the ethos of “with great connectivity, comes great responsibility.” PTC is also leading the way in corporate responsibility as it pertains to informing and disclosing to customers and shareholders potential vulnerabilities, in a coordinated approach. Further, PTC has taken the next step towards a shared model of responsibility and how the industry must move forward to tackle these new threats which are emerging due to the proliferations of intelligent connected devices, specifically in the healthcare market.

Chris Rezendes from Context Labs walked us through his thought process starting with the persistence of identity, data veracity and how their digital thread begins at the cyber physical edge node. Chris detailed how they can ingest authenticated identities and high pedigree data from multiple sources like the government, PTC, BlackRidge and others into a blockchain ledger which allows them to develop enhanced, advanced analytics which they can visualize and deliver to their customers.

From a BlackRidge perspective, we provide our partners and customers with an identity-based approach to network segmentation and segregation, at the edge and throughout the network. This offers visibility and access controls to network resources, independent of network topology and addresses, with policy actions logged along with identity attribution information for enhanced monitoring, detection and adaptive response.

Further BlackRidge’s software overlay approach offers our customers the ability today to defend their current or future architectures, due to our ability to operate across different network environments in the IT, OT, Greenfield, and Brownfield. We accomplish this through a unique, patented approach to using tokenizing identity in the first packet of network connections to control access to network resources. Depending on the source of identity and other characteristics, we can assign different trust levels and access policies to endpoints to provide deeper awareness, endpoint trust pedigree and analytics.

In summary, there is no magic bullet to securing our current critical infrastructure. However, working in a shared model of responsibility with great partners like the U.S. Government, PTC and Context Labs, and using authenticated identity throughout the IoT stack is the best place to start in the currently deployed and future ecosystem.

For more industry insights from this great panel of speakers, watch our webinar: A New and Resilient Approach to Securing Critical Infrastructure and IIoT.

Follow the webinar speakers and their companies on social media to continue the dialog on this important topic: @MiTknlg, @BlackRidgeTech, @joshcorman, @ptc, @chris_rezendes, and @contextlabsbv.