There’s tremendous potential for operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) professionals right now, to be cyber heroes in any organization tackling security for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). That’s my takeaway from the IoT Evolution Expo, where I spoke last week on a panel, “The Digital Transformation Opportunity in Industrial IoT.” Panelists discussed strategies for capitalizing on the opportunity and mitigating the risk that the IIoT represents, why organizations need cyber heroes to secure the industrial production environment and how IT and OT professionals have a huge opportunity ahead of them. Here are the three reasons why:

1. The IIoT presents a major security challenge.

The IIoT is composed of many sensors, controllers, machines, software and mobile devices on the manufacturing plant floor. Given that the industry is positioned to grow at a rapid pace, the number of IIoT devices will continue to proliferate. Industry analyst firm Accenture estimates that the IIoT could add $14.2 trillion to the global economy by 2030. Not only does the IIoT represent a huge digital shift, but also a major security challenge due to the complexity, diversity and sensitive nature of the environment and the many sensors and machines connected to it.

Many suppliers of industrial equipment are working quickly to connect their business systems to the internet, to take advantage of new capabilities. The problem is that many of these manufacturers and suppliers are doing so without a complete understanding of the underlying security challenges and new risks presented by the IIoT. As a result, security risks have the potential to cause delays, damage or even shut down the connected manufacturing floor. Who can help organizations ensure the safety and security of connected industrial machines and sensors? A challenge of this magnitude calls for a new team of cyber heroes.

2. Securing the digital factory requires a new team of cyber professionals.

Securing the digital factory calls for a new team of cyber professionals – with multiple skill sets and a breadth of knowledge across silos and specializations. This team recognizes that the IIoT is about digitizing business processes, not just connecting things or sensors. They understand how to collaborate across diverse specializations, how to increase reliability of control systems, how to influence processes critical to security, how to secure industrial IoT devices and how to impact business outcomes. They are knowledgeable in manufacturing roles, processes, machines, systems, technology and security. They understand that technology, talent and teamwork move in tandem to eliminate security obstacles for digital transformation.

This unique blend of skill sets represents a whole new category of cyber professional and a huge career opportunity for those in IT and OT. It’s the chance to capitalize on existing knowledge and fill in the gaps with learning and training.

3. OT and IT professionals continually grow and develop their skillsets, to secure the IIoT.

Securing the IIoT is one of the biggest challenges to hit the manufacturing industry in recent years. It’s also a tremendous opportunity for IT and OT professionals, to be the cyber hero that organizations need to secure their processes, machines, sensors and things. While any individual can train and learn about securing the IIoT, IT and OT professionals who make the transition can have a distinct competitive advantage. They have experience with manufacturing machines and systems and existing skills in the IIoT. Bolstering this knowledge with security-based training and certifications to validate skills, these professionals are prepared to get ahead of security trends and tackle the challenges of the IIoT head on. By regularly updating skills through continuing education, IT and OT professionals stay on the cutting edge of evolving security risks and technology, can secure the IIoT and have the potential to take a starring role as the cyber hero for their organization.

How can you be the cyber hero in IIoT? And how can you help secure your organization’s industrial systems as more and more business processes are digitized? Learn more about the challenges of securing the IIoT and how you can be the cyber hero by downloading Cisco’s recent whitepaper, How to Succeed Through Securing the Internet of Things




Tom Gilheany

Product Manager