Securing the Future of Industry 4.0: The Importance of Cybersecurity

Industrial revolutions are significant milestone that reshape the course of history. Since the discovery of steam power, revolutions have progressed rapidly, with the fourth industrial revolution now underway. Many of the novel changes in Industry 4.0 come from the keen interest in manufacturing plants. Industry 4.0 is characterized by the integration of several technologies, including the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), big data and cloud computing. These technologies help manufacturing plants to achieve better productivity, customization features and operational efficiency. In essence, Industry 4.0 provides a way to deal with high volumes of data and enhanced communications, to link the manufacturing sector’s digital and physical components.

The increased intercommunication and data density that occurs with Industry 4.0 has led to new challenges, especially in cybersecurity. Cybersecurity has become a major concern, and one that should be followed at the highest level. With advancements in network capabilities and digital landscapes, cyberattacks have become more frequent for various motivations such as financial and strategic reasons. Stakeholders that use IOT systems are affected by this problem. For the most part, large organizations are exposed to cyberattacks that cause significant financial damages, in addition to data corruption, system crashes, privacy breaches, and loss of prestige, trust and reputation.

Risks in a connected world

As the world becomes more interconnected and reliant on technology, the attack surface for cyber threats widens considerably. In the context of Industry 4.0, these risks can manifest in the following ways:

  1. Data breaches: Sensitive data is continuously processed and transmitted due to Industry 4.0’s interconnectivity. Intellectual property and financial losses, and the theft of confidential data are all possible outcomes of a data breach.
  2. Production disruption: Cyberattacks on manufacturing systems have the potential to stop production lines, causing large-scale financial losses and harm to a company’s reputation.
  3. Sabotage and manipulation: Bad actors have the ability to compromise industrial control systems (ICS) and alter the production process, thereby leading to unsafe products or even putting human lives in jeopardy.
  4. Theft of intellectual property: In today’s industry, innovations and exclusive designs are priceless assets. Cyberattacks have the potential to result in intellectual property theft, which would reduce a business’s competitive advantage.

Industry 4.0 cybersecurity challenges

Manufacturing is the second-most attacked industry, although it falls behind in terms of security.

The same malware, denial of service (DoS), device hacking, vulnerability exploitation and other standard attack techniques that affect traditional networks can also affect smart factories. Additionally, manufacturers are finding it more and more challenging to identify and prevent cyberattacks due to smart factories’ increased attack surfaces. With the emergence of IoT, these threats now work on an entirely new level, and can result in serious physical consequences. Some new security challenges that organizations face in the age of Industry 4.0 are as follows:

  • Every connected device represents a potential risk.
  • Manufacturing systems such as Industrial Control Systems (ICS) have unique vulnerabilities that make them particularly susceptible to cyberattacks.
  • Industry 4.0 connects previously isolated systems, which increases the attack surface.
  • Manufacturing has fewer regulated compliance standards than other sectors.
  • Visibility is poor across separate systems and isolated environments.

High-profile security breaches

  • Stuxnet

In 2010, a worm known as Stuxnet attacked nuclear facilities in Iran. Stuxnet was a combination of four zero-day vulnerabilities. The worms used default passwords to access the Windows operating system that ran PCS7 and WinCC programs.

  • Saudi Aramco attacks

An externally originated virus attacked the Saudi Aramco oil corporation by infecting 30,000 workstations. The company suspected the attack was a counter attack by the Iranian government. However, Aramco Oil corporation was forced to isolate their electronic systems from the outside.

  • Mirai Botnet

Mirai botnet infects IoT devices and controls them as a zombie network for malicious activities. Mirai targets the devices using the default usernames and passwords set by the manufacturers.

The necessity of cybersecurity in Industry 4.0

  1. Data and intellectual property protection: It is critical to safeguard private information and intellectual property in a digital manufacturing environment. Access controls and encryption are two examples of cybersecurity solutions that protect these assets from theft or unauthorized access.
  2. Maintaining operational continuity: Manufacturing operations may be interrupted by cyberattacks, resulting in expensive downtime. Strong cybersecurity safeguards reduce financial losses and preserves operational continuity.
  3. Preserving product quality and safety: Cyberattacks that manipulate manufacturing processes might produce unsafe or subpar products. By guaranteeing the security and integrity of production systems, cybersecurity protects against these threats.
  4. Regulatory compliance: Strict regulations covering operational safety and data protection apply to many businesses. Maintaining strong cybersecurity defenses is necessary to meet these requirements.
  5. Reputation protection: A cyber incident has the potential to severely damage a business’s reputation. In addition to being a commercial requirement, displaying a dedication to cybersecurity is a means of gaining the trust of stakeholders and customers.
  6. Readiness for emerging threats: Cybersecurity risks are always changing. A proactive strategy to cybersecurity is necessary in order to respond to new and emerging threats like ransomware, zero-day vulnerabilities and insider threats.


Industry 4.0 offers numerous benefits, but it also presents a host of cybersecurity challenges. As manufacturers increasingly rely on interconnected systems and data-driven operations, the need for robust cybersecurity measures becomes more pressing. The protection of data, intellectual property and operational continuity are vital components of a successful Industry 4.0 implementation.

In the era of Industry 4.0, investing in cybersecurity is not an option, but an imperative. Failing to prioritize cybersecurity can result in severe consequences, from data breaches and financial losses to damaged reputations and compromised safety. To navigate the Fourth Industrial Revolution successfully, industries must recognize that cybersecurity is an integral part of their overall strategy, and adopt a proactive and vigilant approach to protect their digital assets and operations.

Anuka Jinadasa

Engineer – Cyber Security