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Digital Twins Are the Future, Here Are 5 Ways to Keep Them Secure While Manufacturing Innovation Digital twins are an electronic version of a real-work entity. They are bound for a 36 percent increase in usage over the next five years. Here are five ways to utilize and secure digital twins while ensuring peak productivity.

By Ralph Tkatchuk Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As technology continues to revamp existing business models, novel methods of manufacturing and projection are increasingly being used. Digital twins are perhaps the best example of how companies marry technology with the natural world to create innovative solutions. A digital twin is an electronic version of a real-work entity. It allows companies to model business conditions and predict the impact of their choices.

Research by Capgemini reveals that digital twin usage is bound to increase by 36 percent over the next five years. Increased adoption will certainly help enterprises create better products. However, increased use often brings significant security risks.

Related: Why Blockchain and Digital Twins Are Good Partners

Data freely flows between the real-world entity and the digital twin. For instance, manufacturers create data flows between a real-world assembly line and its digital twin. This situation makes digital twins prime targets for malicious hackers who can wreak havoc on enterprise systems.

Here are five ways your company can secure its digital twins while ensuring peak productivity.

Evaluate all security practices

One of the most significant risks to digital twins is the prospect of hacking real-world security lines. For instance, a malicious actor might tap into the data stream between a real-world manufacturing line and its digital twin, damaging any IoT or mechanical elements significantly. To mitigate this risk, companies must review every security process in detail, including access protocols. Companies must analyze who accesses the digital twin and why.

Access management is central to a company's cybersecurity posture. Organizations must take the time to review everything related to it thoroughly, along with checking server security.

The data a digital twin generates will be stored on physical servers. Companies must examine their data pipeline as well. How well are they secured, and are there any gaps in that infrastructure? Connecting the pipeline to prevent rogue access in a malware attack is critical.

Related: Into the Metaverse: How Digital Twins Can Change the Business Landscape

Examine IoT security

Digital twins rely on IoT sensors and other devices in process chains to gather, transmit and analyze data. IoT offers several benefits, but these devices can act as a loophole in security infrastructure. Most IoT devices are not designed with a bigger picture in mind.

For instance, a single IoT device can secure the data it gathers very well. However, manufacturers cannot anticipate how this data will be used and the devices the product will interact with. Thus, they cannot configure the device for network security and leave it up to the user to do so.

Companies must check whether their IoT devices' configurations align with network security practices. Using devices with hardcoded security settings and pre-configured network passwords exposes them to significant risk.

Model security using twins

An under-appreciated area when speaking of digital twin usage is security modeling. While securing the digital twin to prevent real-world impact gains a lot of attention, companies must recognize that they can model attacks on digital twins to assess the impact on real-world systems.

Organizations must run scenarios that model different threats. They'll learn more about their network and its vulnerabilities. Standard cybersecurity measures such as penetration tests and continuous security monitoring allow organizations to attack their systems in a controlled environment.

Related: Five Ways To Protect Your Company Against Cyber Attacks

Companies must follow these tests with a detailed analysis of what happened. Creating a change management plan based on findings is essential to improving a digital twin's security and that of its real-world counterpart.

Check network security

Digital twins are a relatively new concept despite their growing popularity. Many manufacturing networks have not adjusted to their presence, leading to confusing security protocols. For instance, most manufacturers struggle to define where their twin will live on the web and how it will communicate with its real-world counterpart.

Should the twin use communication networks beyond the manufacturer's network when gathering data? How will those communication lines be secured? Answering these questions will reveal gaps in network security processes.

Default security architecture houses twins behind networks following Purdue Enterprise Reference Architecture (PERA) standards. However, as technology has evolved, PERA is not changing fast enough to secure data. PERA places sensors at level zero, barring all network connectivity. This model is unsuited for modern manufacturers.

Another solution is using the air-gap method, where sensors are housed in particular network sections. This keeps network traffic isolated from outside communication channels. However, the result is manual data uploads for analysis, and inevitably, the digital twin falls behind real-world conditions.

Developing network architecture that accounts for modern needs is of the essence. Companies must collaborate with design experts and brainstorm better ways to secure network data.

Related: Why Your Business Growth Depends on IT Infrastructure

Embrace zero trust

One way of solving the network security problem is to embrace zero-trust solutions. As more significant portions of cybersecurity infrastructure move towards automation, zero-trust is quickly emerging as the best solution for sophisticated networks.

A zero-trust system allows devices on a network to communicate seamlessly while validating each other's identities. Zero-trust also helps organizations define activity levels and the degree of data shared. For instance, they can specify the degree of a machine's privileges on a network, preventing unwanted data sharing.

The result is a data footprint that can be controlled, along with risk-based access management. By managing the degree of communication between systems, companies can prevent the spread of malware should any component of a digital twin become infected.

Innovative solutions need robust security

There's no doubt that digital twins can create better manufacturing processes. However, companies must secure data and access before realizing those benefits. Cybersecurity is a business pillar, and it is essential when speaking of digital twins.

Ralph Tkatchuk

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Data Security Consultant

Ralph Tkatchuk is a data security consultant and and an IT guy with 15 years of field experience working with clients of various sizes and verticals. He is all about helping companies and individuals safeguard their data against malicious online abuse and fraud. His current specialty is in ecommerce data protection and prevention.

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