Tag Archive for: Industrial IoT

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Don’t WannaCry on your Industrial IoT System

Pretty much anyone who has a computer or listens to the news has heard about the WannaCry virus that swept across the world a few days ago, installing itself on computers in businesses, hospitals, government agencies, and homes, encrypting hard drives and demanding ransom payments.  After scrambling to ensure that our operating systems are up-to-date and protected against this latest threat, the question soon comes up: How can we protect ourselves against similar threats in the future?

“How?” indeed.  That would seem difficult.  Our reliance on networked computers for business and personal use is fully entrenched, and business/personal PCs will remain vulnerable for the foreseeable future.  In the industrial arena, some may conclude this latest attack is yet another reason to hold off on their IoT strategy.  Or, at least: “You should use a VPN to keep it safe.”

And yet neither of these instincts is necessarily correct because (i) it is possible to build a secure Industrial IoT (“IIoT”) system, and (ii) VPN is not the way to do it.  Industrial control systems may use the same underlying operating systems as PCs but they are different in one critical aspect.  They exchange real-time control data, not files and emails.

How WannaCry Got In

WannaCry comes in two parts – an email “bomb” that exploits your anti-virus software and a “worm” that propagates throughout your network by exploiting configuration weaknesses and operating system bugs.  The special danger of WannaCry is that it can infect a computer through email even if you never open the email message.  Once WannaCry arrives through email, the worm takes over to attack the rest of the computers on your network.

The worm portion of the virus spreads itself by finding other machines on the network.  According to analysis of the code by Zammis Clark at Malwarebytes Labs, “After initializing the functionality used by the worm, two threads are created. The first thread scans hosts on the LAN. … The scanning thread tries to connect to port 445, and if so creates a new thread to try to exploit the system using MS17-010/EternalBlue.” (the bug that the virus exploits)

If there is no open port on the other computer, the virus cannot spread.  But the VPN is not much help here.  If anyone on the VPN is struck by the virus, then every machine on the LAN is exposed.  Suppose you have an IIoT system connecting a corporate office to a process control system over a VPN.  If the virus activates on any of the connected machines in the IT department, it can easily propagate itself to any of the connected machines on the industrial LAN.

How to Keep WannaCry Out

The tongue-in-cheek answer is “don’t use email”.  More seriously, industrial systems and IT systems should be separated from one another.  There is no need to read email from the industrial LAN.  Don’t install email software on your industrial computers, and don’t allow email traffic through your firewall.

But industrial systems still need to communicate their data.  How can you reach the data without exposing the industrial network?  The solution is spelled out in detail in the latest white paper from Cogent (a Skkynet company) titled: Access Your Data, Not Your Network. This paper explains why the traditional architecture of industrial systems is not suitable for secure Industrial IoT or Industrie 4.0 applications, and discusses the inherent risks of using a VPN.  But most important, it introduces the best approach for secure IIoT and Industrie 4.0, which is to provide access to industrial data without exposing the network at all.

Specifically, the Skkynet-provisioned devices and the DataHub can make outbound connections to SkkyHub without opening any firewall ports.  These connections are robust channels that support bidirectional, real-time communications for doing monitoring and supervisory control.  The WannaCry virus or anything similar cannot spread into this system because they can’t see anything to infect.  The devices on the network are completely invisible.  Skkynet’s approach provides access to the data only, not to the network.

5G Wireless Seems Optimal for Industrial IoT

A few weeks ago two hardware giants in the telecom and chip industries, Ericsson and Intel, launched a 5G Innovators Initiative, along with Honeywell, GE, and the University of California Berkeley.  5G wireless is the next standard after 4G that will convey much more data at much higher speeds, making it ideal for IIoT applications.  In fact, the 5G Innovators Initiative’s action plan states that “The first industry segment to be explored is Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).”

Honeywell and GE, the primary industrial partners in this initiative, both recognize the value of 5G for industry.  “Industrial companies looking to optimize their assets and operations need connectivity from the edge to the cloud. … using the innovations emerging from 5G wireless will help them unlock efficiency, increase manageability and drive sustainability,” said Peter Marx, Vice President, Advanced Concepts, GE Digital.

“5G technology will be a key enabler as we continue to develop and deploy new connected solutions to improve worker productivity, safety and asset performance across our customers’ global supply chains,” said Suresh Venkatarayalu, Chief Technology Officer, Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions.  “It will help us bring to market new IoT solutions for aircraft, buildings, homes, industrial plants, logistics providers, manufacturers and retailers.”

Commenting on the value of 5G wireless for industrial applications, Bob Gill at ARC Advisory Group said last year, “The ramp-up in speed and performance that goes with the next evolution of the cellular story, 5G, brings with it increased relevance to the industrial flavor of IoT, i.e. IIoT, and some interesting potential applications. … More specific to Industrial IoT, 5G’s extremely low latency of one millisecond (versus about 25 ms for 4G) makes it viable for critical industrial applications involving control rather than just monitoring.”

This is the kind of performance that Skkynet users can appreciate. Already recognized by Nokia for its cutting-edge technology, Skkynet is well positioned to take full advantage of the high speed performance that 5G can provide.  The SkkyHub service adds only a few milliseconds to overall device-to-user data transmission via the cloud.  Running on a 5G network would mean real-world M2M response times of under 5 milliseconds for industrial applications.

“Remotely controlled operations are particularly applicable in industries like mining, construction, oil & gas, and power, where the operating environment may be hazardous and the sites distantly located, hard to reach, and inhospitable,” Gill continued. “For a remote worker to operate a machine in a mine, for example, as safely and efficiently as an on-site operator necessitates a level of sensory awareness of the surroundings, and this becomes possible with a fast, low latency 5G network transmitting live video and enabling real-time force feedback and haptic interaction.”

At Skkynet we are following the development of 5G wireless with interest, while we continue to build and enhance the necessary secure infrastructure to support Gill’s vision.  Even with just 3G or 4G, engineers and managers are able today to do supervisory control with live video in real time using DataHub and SkkyHub technology.  5G can only enhance the performance and user experience.

Cyber Security: Over 90% of IIoT Experts Express Concerns

Respondents to the 2017 Industrial Internet of Things Security Survey by Tripwire paint a pretty bleak picture of cyber security for the Industrial IoT (IIoT).  Among the more than 400 IT professionals responsible for securing their companies against IIoT-related threats, 96% said they expect to see an increase in cyber attacks in the coming year.  At the same time, less than 50% of them feel prepared for those attacks.

This is cause for concern, according to David Meltzer, chief technology officer at Tripwire, who said, Industry professionals know that the Industrial Internet of Things security is a problem today. More than half of the respondents said they don’t feel prepared to detect and stop cyber attacks against IIoT.

At the same time, 90% of these same IIoT experts expect the use of IIoT to increase.  They acknowledge that innovation must go forward, and that the benefits of the IIoT outweigh the costs.  Two out of three of them recognize the need to protect against cyber attacks, despite the fact that less than half of them feel prepared for attacks on insecure IIoT devices.

The Industrial Internet of Things ultimately delivers value to organizations, and that’s why we’re seeing an increase in deployments, said Meltzer.  Security can’t be an industry of ‘no’ in the face of innovation, and businesses can’t be effective without addressing risks. The apparent contradiction of known risks and continued deployment demonstrates that security and operations need to coordinate on these issues.

Meltzer points out that the consequences of insecure IoT implementations leading to a cyber attack are far more severe for industrial applications.  Greater connectivity with operational technology (OT) exposes operational teams to the types of attacks that IT teams are used to seeing, but with even higher stakes, he said.  The concern for a cyber attack is no longer focused on loss of data, but safety and availability. Consider an energy utility as an example – cyber attacks could disrupt power supply for communities and potentially have impact to life and safety.

Here at Skkynet, we could not agree more. It was this kind of thinking that led us to develop our secure-by-design SkkyHub service. Those who understand the risks of the IIoT and the difficulty of securing it using conventional IT or OT approaches recognize the value of what we are doing. We invite every survey participant and anyone else who wants to get the most out of the IIoT to see for themselves how these concerns fall away when using an IIoT platform that is secure by design.

New Release of Cogent DataHub Features OPC UA and Video Camera Support

Major new release of Cogent DataHub v8.0 enables Industrial IoT and secure in-plant data connectivity.

Mississauga, Ontario, March 1, 2017 – Skkynet Cloud Systems, Inc. (“Skkynet”) (OTCQB: SKKY), a global leader in real-time cloud information systems, announces that Cogent Real-Time Systems, a Skkynet subsidiary, has issued a major new release of its Cogent DataHub® software to include support for OPC UA and streaming video.  Version 8.0 of the Cogent DataHub can connect and integrate data for virtually any industrial system, ranging from legacy equipment to state-of-the-art Industry 4.0 and Industrial IoT systems.

“With OPC UA and in-band video streaming capabilities the Cogent DataHub is poised at the forefront of the IIoT wave,” said Andrew Thomas, Skkynet CEO. “The DataHub is uniquely positioned to extend OPC UA by seamlessly connecting it to the previous generation of OPC (OPC Classic), while providing full integration with video streams, SQL databases, Excel spreadsheets, a web-based HMI, and the SkkyHub™ service for cloud connectivity.”

OPC is a series of standards for connecting industrial hardware and devices with HMIs and other software.  OPC Classic has millions of installations established over twenty years.  OPC UA (Unified Architecture) was introduced to expand the domain of OPC beyond traditional industrial applications, and to provide improved networking and security.  “The DataHub effectively provides a fast, easy and non-disruptive upgrade path to existing industrial control infrastructure built around the OPC standards” said Mr. Thomas.

The latest version of the Cogent DataHub fully integrates OPC UA as one of its standard protocols, along with OPC DA and other industrial protocols to support OPC networking, OPC server-server bridging, aggregation, data logging, redundancy, and web-based HMI. Capable of handling over 50,000 data changes per second, the DataHub is also seamlessly integrated with Skkynet’s SkkyHub and ETK for secure, end-to-end Industrial IoT and Industry 4.0 connectivity.

The Cogent DataHub connects to Skkynet’s SkkyHub service to securely network live data in real time from any location. It enables bidirectional IoT-based supervisory control, integration and sharing of data with multiple users. Secure by design, the service requires no VPN, no open firewall ports, no special programming, and no additional hardware. It also connects to the Skkynet Embedded Toolkit (ETK), to provide real-time, bidirectional data exchange with embedded devices.

About Skkynet

Skkynet Cloud Systems, Inc. (OTCQB: SKKY) is a global leader in real-time cloud information systems. The Skkynet Connected Systems platform includes the award-winning SkkyHub™ service, DataHub®, WebView™, and Embedded Toolkit (ETK) software. The platform enables real-time data connectivity for industrial, embedded, and financial systems, with no programming required. Skkynet’s platform is uniquely positioned for the “Internet of Things” and “Industry 4.0” because unlike the traditional approach for networked systems, SkkyHub is secure-by-design. For more information, see http://skkynet.com.

Safe Harbor

This news release contains “forward-looking statements” as that term is defined in the United States Securities Act of 1933, as amended and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Statements in this press release that are not purely historical are forward-looking statements, including beliefs, plans, expectations or intentions regarding the future, and results of new business opportunities. Actual results could differ from those projected in any forward-looking statements due to numerous factors, such as the inherent uncertainties associated with new business opportunities and development stage companies. Skkynet assumes no obligation to update the forward-looking statements. Although Skkynet believes that any beliefs, plans, expectations and intentions contained in this press release are reasonable, there can be no assurance that they will prove to be accurate. Investors should refer to the risk factors disclosure outlined in Skkynet’s annual report on Form 10-K for the most recent fiscal year, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and other periodic reports filed from time-to-time with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Industrial Analytics: Predictive and Prescriptive

A few blogs back we looked at growing interest in extracting value from IoT data through industrial analytics.  This interest has not sprouted up overnight.  Since the beginning of computer-assisted control systems, plant engineers and managers have been using their increasingly powerful and sophisticated tools to gather data, and then use the data to improve their processes.

For much of that time, the idea was to collect data in a database, and then at the end of the month or quarter, run various analytical tools on the data to see where the problems and bottlenecks were, and what could be changed.  This approach had some value, but it is essentially a reactive model.  Today, there is a general trend underway to go beyond simple reaction like this, and move towards the ability to predict problems, and if possible prescribe a solution.  In a recent blog, Blurred Lines Between Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics Mike Guilfoyle at ARC Advisory Group explains the value of each of these approaches to analytics, as well as their differences.

He breaks down this kind of pro-active analysis into three parts: performance, predictive and prescriptive, distinguished as follows:

  • Performance describes what is happening or has happened, and is the starting point of all analytics, reactive or pro-active.  The focus here is on current or past performance.
  • Predictive looks forward to what is most probable to happen, given the current conditions, using Big Data, machine learning, and other IT tools.
  • Prescriptive uses all of the above inputs, and adds to that a knowledge base and decision-making algorithms to prescribe what action can or should be taken.  In some instances, the system might actually even carry out the action, which is referred to as “closed-loop control.”

Guilfoyle goes on to identify some of important differences between predictive and presciptive analytics.  In fact, he will be leading a session on analytics best practices at the ARC Industry Forum this week.  You may not be able to attend, but his article is a good introduction.

In any case, the trend towards predictive and prescriptive analytics and any kind of closed-loop control based on such approaches highlights the need for secure, real-time access to plant data.  It is yet another example of the closing gap between OT and IT, and is an unmistakable benefit of the Industrial IoT.

Skkynet to Exhibit New IIoT Technology at ARC Industry Forum

New embedded systems technologies and Industry 4.0 protocol support drive Skkynet’s demos of the Industrial IoT.

Mississauga, Ontario, January 31, 2017 – Skkynet Cloud Systems, Inc. (“Skkynet”) (OTCQB: SKKY), a global leader in real-time cloud information systems, will demonstrate the latest release candidate of the Cogent DataHub® connecting via SkkyHub™ to the newest Renesas Synergy™ Platform, at the ARC Industry Forum on February 6-9 in Orlando, Florida.  The hands-on IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) demo will let users interact securely with a live embedded system from their mobile devices over OPC UA, the recommended protocol for Industry 4.0.

“People need to see something working, and interact with it, to truly understand what we mean by an end-to-end IIoT solution,” said Paul Thomas, President of Skkynet. “This demo brings the IIoT out of the realm of speculation and into the domain of practical solutions that the C-level executives who attend the ARC Industry Forum expect to see.”

The ARC Industry Forum brings together CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, VPs, directors and managers of some of the largest industrial companies in the world.  This year’s focus on the IIoT focuses on the convergence of IT, OT (operations technology), and ET (engineering technology) and explores the move “from Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) concepts to real IIoT products, solutions, and services.”

The Skkynet technology being showcased includes the latest version of the Cogent DataHub, which  fully integrates OPC UA and other industrial protocols to support OPC networking, OPC server-server bridging, aggregation, data logging, redundancy, and web-based HMI. Capable of handling over 50,000 data changes per second, the DataHub is also seamlessly integrated with Skkynet’s SkkyHub and ETK for secure, end-to-end Industrial IoT and Industry 4.0 connectivity.

The demo also includes the Renesas Synergy Platform running the Skkynet Embedded Toolkit (ETK), which allows embedded devices to make a secure connection to the Cogent DataHub or SkkyHub, enabling real-time, bidirectional IoT data flow. Skkynet’s SkkyHub service connects to the ETK and the Cogent DataHub to securely network live data in real time from any location. It enables bidirectional IoT-based supervisory control, integration and sharing of data with multiple users. Secure by design, the service requires no VPN, no open firewall ports, no special programming, and no additional hardware.

About Skkynet

Skkynet Cloud Systems, Inc. (OTCQB: SKKY) is a global leader in real-time cloud information systems. The Skkynet Connected Systems platform includes the award-winning SkkyHub™ service, DataHub®, WebView™, and Embedded Toolkit (ETK) software. The platform enables real-time data connectivity for industrial, embedded, and financial systems, with no programming required. Skkynet’s platform is uniquely positioned for the “Internet of Things” and “Industry 4.0” because unlike the traditional approach for networked systems, SkkyHub is secure-by-design. For more information, see http://skkynet.com.

Safe Harbor

This news release contains “forward-looking statements” as that term is defined in the United States Securities Act of 1933, as amended and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Statements in this press release that are not purely historical are forward-looking statements, including beliefs, plans, expectations or intentions regarding the future, and results of new business opportunities. Actual results could differ from those projected in any forward-looking statements due to numerous factors, such as the inherent uncertainties associated with new business opportunities and development stage companies. Skkynet assumes no obligation to update the forward-looking statements. Although Skkynet believes that any beliefs, plans, expectations and intentions contained in this press release are reasonable, there can be no assurance that they will prove to be accurate. Investors should refer to the risk factors disclosure outlined in Skkynet’s annual report on Form 10-K for the most recent fiscal year, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and other periodic reports filed from time-to-time with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.