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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Taking Thailand to Industry 4.0 — ICS Security Challenges

From what I have observed, Southeast Asia remains to serve as a home to a combination of developed, developing, and still emerging economies with different manufacturing landscapes. Entering the landscape of this region is like entering a garden with different plants in different stages of maturity.

Back in 2014, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand were among the leading manufacturers, with Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia still on their emerging phases. However, according to some statistics which I’ve read recently, manufacturing in the region is slowly gaining its momentum, thanks to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) which aims to reinvigorate the state of the manufacturing industry. If the region will be able to leverage the perks of the fourth industrial revolution, ASEAN is expected to become the fourth largest economy in the world by 2030.

So what is Industry 4.0? It is the trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies which includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things, cloud computing and cognitive computing. According to another study I’ve come across with, riding the Fourth Industrial Revolution wave could help ASEAN capture up to US$600 billion of the US$3.7 trillion in global benefits expected from Industry 4.0 by 2025.

Thailand 4.0
Like its neighbors, Thailand is willing to get a share of Industry 4.0 with its own vision of transforming the economy. I remember, back in 2016 the government unveiled the initiative dubbed “Thailand 4.0”, which aims to pull the country out of the middle-income trap and develop it into an innovative, dynamic economy. This exciting campaign intends to overcome several challenges resulting from past development models, which first focused on agriculture (Thailand 1.0), then on light industry (Thailand 2.0), and then on advanced industry (Thailand 3.0). The initiative is an ambitious master plan to get the country Industry 4.0-ready, making Thailand a high-income nation within five years.

Transitioning to Industry 4.0 would mean moving the Kingdom’s economy from relying on manufacturing existing products to pioneering new innovative products through research and invention. The aim is to develop a high value-added economy — for example, by changing Thailand’s traditional farming to smart farming, traditional SMEs to smart enterprises and traditional services to high-value services. Thailand 4.0 will tap digital technologies, including the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, big data and analytics. This would help to develop smart, secure and connected communities which are innovative, forward-thinking and competitive.

The plan seems to be supported by entrepreneurs — Thai firms are willing to embrace technology. According to the survey, 89 percent of companies in Thailand were ready to explore and implement IoT solutions compared to 86 percent in Malaysia, 83 percent in Indonesia, 80 percent in the Philippines, and 79 percent in Vietnam. The Asia IoT Business Platform also forecasts that IoT spending in Thailand is set to increase by 1,600 percent by 2020.

However, the transition to Thailand 4.0 poses multiple challenges. One of them is security. Indeed, Thailand 4.0 strategy emphasises security as one of the three key elements along with wealth and sustainability. The reason why security is so important for Industry 4.0 is rather obvious. Automated wireless cyber-physical systems with lesser human touch-points promise greater efficiency, but these systems are also exposed to potential cyberattacks. Greater connectivity brought about by Industry 4.0 requires greater attention to security, especially for industrial Control System (ICS).

These risks should not be neglected especially in Southeast Asia, which leads the world’s ranking of regions when it comes to the highest numbers of ICS infections blocked by Kaspersky. In Thailand, Kaspersky was able to block infections on 42.9% of ICS machines. Internet remains the main source of threats in the region, with 39.5% of ICS computers on which internet threats were blocked. Kaspersky also observed a slight increase in the percentage of ICS computers on which malicious email attachments were blocked.

These statistics show that Industry 4.0 is indeed a double-edged sword. It has some definite pros, including wireless and faster communications and processes; but also some cons, including the risks of costly cyberattacks. The more the industry is connected, the more vulnerable it is to the risks, because there are so many more ‘doors’ for hackers to find. They can target the connected devices that generate data, the networks that carry it, the servers that host it or the information systems that use it.

Threats to systems that control manufacturing processes can cause significant financial losses and disruption of crucial operations. Given that almost six out of ten ICS machines in Thailand were subjected to threats for the second half of the last year, thinking about securing ICS systems becomes a vital requirement.

We, at Kaspersky suggests holistic approach to cybersecurity, which includes two major components. The first is adaptive solutions for critical systems and networks and the second is better threat awareness and improved habits observed by the entire workforce. We recommend implementing the following technical measures to minimise the risks of ICS attacks:

◦ Regularly update operating systems, application software, and security solutions
◦ Apply necessary security fixes and audit access control for ICS components in the enterprise’s industrial network and at its boundaries
◦ Provide dedicated training and support for employees as well as partners and suppliers with access to your network
◦ Restrict network traffic on ports and protocols used on edge routers and inside the organization’s OT networks
◦ Use ICS network traffic monitoring, analysis and detection solutions for better protection from attacks potentially threatening technological process and main enterprise assets
◦ Deploy dedicated security solutions on ICS servers, workstations and HMIs, such as Kaspersky Industrial CyberSecurity. This solution includes network traffic monitoring, analysis and detection to secure OT and industrial infrastructure from both random malware infections and dedicated industrial threats
◦ Form a dedicated security team for both IT and OT sectors
◦ Equip these security teams with proper cybersecurity training as well as real-time and in-depth threat intelligence reports

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