There is a debate festering within the ICS/OT community about the impact of connectivity on security. On one end of the spectrum there are those who believe that we must retreat into technological isolationism and disconnect all of our critical systems from the Internet. Perhaps the most eloquent argument from this camp was delivered by Andy Bochman in the pages of Harvard Business Review. He calls for “reduc[ing] if not eliminat[ing] the dependency of critical functions on digital technologies and their connections to the Internet.” On the other end of the spectrum is the belief that connectivity is an unstoppable force and we have no choice but to manage the incremental risk associated with more and more networked operational technologies. Let’s face it, most businesses are still largely willing to accept the risk of lost revenue and reputational harm for the benefits of predictive analytics, remote maintenance, and real-time performance metrics — all products of an increasingly interconnected infrastructure.
Enter hyper-connectivity or a state in which the introduction of more sensors and other connected devices marginally expands the attack surface but markedly reduces the opacity of the network, increasing the probability of detection and ultimately attribution. Let’s call this the Hyper-Connectivity Risk Curve. While still theoretical in nature, it is a hypothesis for why the industrial IoT revolution is not all doom and gloom. And it is in need of far greater scrutiny by the community.