Motion Control Security: Realizing the Benefits of IIoT Without Sacrificing Safety

motion control security iiotAs with all networked devices, industrial robots and motion control components connected to the industrial internet of things (IIoT) are proving to be a vulnerability in terms of cybersecurity. A recent study revealed just how vulnerable some motion control applications are, and concluded that many industrial robots are not ready to be connected to IIoT because of their lack of security.

There are many reasons why these motion control applications are so vulnerable to cyber-attacks, and the consequences of such an attack can be dire. However, there are things end users can do to prevent an attack from ever occurring and tighten their cybersecurity in motion control.

What Happens to a Vulnerable Motion Control Application?

If a robotic arm is hacked, for example, the hacker more or less gains full control over the equipment, and can do whatever they please. This has immediate, obvious safety concerns if home-position or other shut down mechanisms are tampered with. A robotic arm could also be forced to extend past its limits and break.

Even more frightening in this scenario, the robot could be reprogrammed to alter its calibration by a few millimeters – imperceptible to technicians or inspections but quite possibly enough to create dangerous, defective products on a mass scale.

How Do You Improve Motion Control Security and Still Benefit from IIoT?

While it's important to know the worst case scenarios, most industrial motion control applications are only vulnerable when cyber security is neglected. With that in mind, the first thing an organization must do is get serious about cyber security. It's a real threat, and the consequences are extreme.

One of the best things an end user can do is work with a system integrator who emphasizes the importance of ongoing safety measures. System integrators should have the expertise required to lock up cyber security in motion control applications.

Another helpful tip is to not neglect software updates. Often times manufacturers will put off software updates for motion control applications so they can maintain uptime, but these updates often have crucial cyber security measures in them, and neglecting them can leave you vulnerable.

Cyber security is an important part of motion control applications in today's interconnected world. This is especially true in the industrial sector, where the consequences of lax security are monumental.