Example essay

GUEST ESSAY: How to secure “digital twins” to optimize asset utilization, while reducing exposures

Our technological world is advancing at breakneck speed.

Related: The advent of a “biodigital twin”

Over the past decade we have seen the introduction of 4G and 5G telecommunications services, the iPad, Instagram, and the introduction, acceptance and adoption of cloud services from Microsoft, Google and Amazon, as well than cloud computing.

Add to this an increasing focus on data which is becoming a crucial business asset, as well as the introduction of countless database and analytics tools, digital twins, artificial intelligence and machine learning. , and we face unprecedented technical complexities and risks.

Digital twins are just one example of a complex system, but they expose businesses to many risks if not properly implemented with a cybersecurity plan in place. Digital twins are a digital representation of reality, either in physical form or as a process. For example, think of digital cities or digital infrastructure.

Leveraging digital twins

You could run a factory and then use the Double digital of this factory to plan maintenance and optimization and see what would happen before they were executed in reality. Another example is a city that uses a digital twin to model floods or earthquakes. Digital twins are incredibly useful.

But think of the risks. For example, what if a malicious actor gains access to the digital twin of a large dam or other critical infrastructure? They might be able to find the most vulnerable places in the physical structure to stage a terrorist attack.


Or what if a competitor got the digital twin of complex machinery invented by a company? They would have the intellectual property of this company in hand. Obviously, it is crucial that all digital twins (or other complex systems) are secured to the highest level.

The biggest challenge is that because digital twins are central to planning, operations, maintenance, and modeling, they can’t just be enclosed with high walls built around them. This would result in a digital twin that was once perfect but is now obsolete.

Access security challenges

To obtain maximum value, the digital twin must be used and kept current, with constant updates, for planning, operations, maintenance and modeling. Therefore, we need to keep the digital twin as open as necessary.

The first step is to determine who should access the digital twin. Will they just need to watch it, download it or update it?

Access should be provided only to those who need it, in the areas of the digital twin they need and at the appropriate level. These levels of access will ensure everyone can do their job, but not so broadly that they can even accidentally modify data they shouldn’t have access to in the first place.

Another consideration is understanding what happens if a bad actor enters the digital twin. What’s going to happen ? Will they steal intellectual property? Can they access industrial control systems? Will they be able to access SCADA systems possibly linked to the digital twin? Will they be able to take control of any monitors or other remote devices (in our Internet of Things world) linked to the digital twin?

Hopefully not, but if so, it’s essential that companies understand the risks and have a plan to deal with them. They need a comprehensive cybersecurity plan. Depending on their security maturity, they may also decide to outsource the risk by having their digital twin hosted by a managed service.

Scenario management

Whatever the solution, it is essential to develop and practice response plans to the various attacks. It’s far too late to know who to call when a digital twin has been hacked and a hacker owns all of the company’s intellectual property or is in the digital twin to turn things around.

Instead, companies should create a list of scenarios that would pose a threat to their organization, then walk through each one with key stakeholders to identify who should be called, how the issue will be communicated, what cyber insurance will cover and what the next steps will be followed. Each scenario then requires practice, to ensure that everyone is ready should the situation arise.

While all of this may sound risky, we should not shy away from adopting and leveraging complex technologies like digital twins. Preparation and planning are key. The payoff and return on investment are too great to simply ignore.

However, we must carefully consider and address cybersecurity risks and deploy responsibly so that everyone has confidence in the technology they need for full use.

About the essayist: Claire Rutkowski, is the Director of Information for Bentley Systemssupplier software solutions to accelerate project delivery and improve asset performance.

*** This is a syndicated blog from the Security Bloggers Network of The Last Watchdog written by bacohido. Read the original post at: https://www.lastwatchdog.com/guest-essay-how-to-secure-digital-twins-to-optimize-asset-use-while-reducing-exposures/

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