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Cybersecurity at the Edge

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Edge computing is simply the processing of data closer to the data source—instead of relying on the cloud or a centralized data center to do the computing. Edge devices compute data locally and provide an efficient means of transmitting and processing that data. They are necessary for enterprise organizations or service providers, who could have thousands of IoT devices on a single network. If all of those IoT devices were to try to transmit data individually to the cloud or data center, it would require a lot of bandwidth and increase latency. Thus, the use of edge devices provides a valuable cost savings for these types of organizations.

The most cited examples of edge devices are things like routers, gateways, and switches that serve as a bridge between the centralized network and the IoT device collecting and sending data. 

However, the “edge” can now also refer to the area in a connected device that handles all of the data processing. For example, a connected smart sensor’s edge could be its embedded processor. The IoT devices of today are far more advanced and sophisticated than their predecessors. With enhanced AI and ML software and the use of real-time applications that require a much lower latency, today’s devices are capable of handling the data collection and processing that more traditional edge devices would normally handle. 

 

How 5G supports the expansion of the edge

The rollout of 5G has also significantly increased the demand for edge technologies, as 5G supports the proliferation of IoT devices on a scale that has yet to be seen. In fact, reports indicate as many as 75 billion IoT devices will be connected in the next five years alone. In order to manage and maintain a network with high bandwidth and low latency, enterprise organizations will need edge technologies to assist in the processing of the massive amounts of data associated with 5G-connected IoT devices.

Similarly, 5G will enable the move from centralized AI— an AI system that exists in the cloud and makes decisions based on data sent to it by outside devices—to Distributed Artificial Intelligence (DAI). DAI is when the device itself is able to collect and process data at the source, and ultimately make decisions. 

While DAI existed well before 5G, the next generation network will make adoption much easier. That’s because amongst the billions of 5G-connected IoT devices will be hundreds of billions of sensors, which will collect and share contextual data that DAI systems will need to learn from and make decisions. 

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While edge computing spans across many industries, the one benefiting most is the Industrial Internet of Things, also known as IIoT. 

 

IIoT and Edge Computing

As an industry that already relies heavily on data collected from sensors, the IIoT is one of the most obvious users of edge computing. The benefits of on-premise edge computing range from cost savings to more oversight and control of your data. The cost savings found in added computing power and greater bandwidth are particularly valuable to organizations that deal in extremely high volumes of data, like large smart factories and warehouses. Edge computing allows 

If an organization is providing a service, edge computing supports much lower latency and thus a faster reaction time. This is a particularly critical need for real-time applications, like manufacturing robots that require a response in milliseconds—a response time that would be incredibly difficult, if not impossible to achieve with cloud computing.

 

Edge computing’s impact on cybersecurity

For the many benefits edge computing offers, there are also a slew of cybersecurity risks that come with them. 

Many of these risks go hand-in-hand with any device connected to 5G—edge or otherwise. Because 5G is a network that has a foundation in software, it is open to countless software vulnerabilities, both known and unknown. In 2020 alone, over 17,447 new software vulnerabilities were discovered and identified by the US-CERT Vulnerability Database, setting the record for most vulnerabilities found in a single year for the fourth year in a row. 

The processors powering edge devices are designed with low power and high performance in mind. This often means developers sacrifice critical elements like security, which all too often (and incorrectly) are seen as costly overhead. This way of thinking can be dangerous for any system, but especially for edge devices.

An exploitable vulnerability in an edge device could be catastrophic. An attacker could use a compromised edge device to gain access to the core of the network, essentially giving an attacker the keys to vast amounts of private data or even total control over the network.  Something as seemingly simply as an insecure sensor on the factory floor could give an attacker easy access to the main network server—the consequences ranging from a DoS attack to a significant data breach. 

In an IIoT environment, securing edge devices isn’t just protecting data, it’s potentially protecting the people that work side-by-side with the devices in a factory. Should an insecure edge device give an attacker access to a network that also connects heavy-duty, smart machinery, more than just money could be at stake.

 

Providing safety and Security at the edge with Dover’s CoreGuard® solution

To boil it down, edge devices suffer from the same security woes of any IoT device and they are not built with security in mind. The temptation to shortcut security in the name of lower overhead must be resisted if we are to build a secure infrastructure of connected devices. Cybersecurity technology like Dover’s CoreGuard solution provides the protection edge devices require.

CoreGuard is the first and only technology that prevents the exploitation of software vulnerabilities and immunizes processors against entire classes of network-based attacks, including all buffer overflows, one of the most common and severe classes of vulnerabilities. 

By designing edge devices with solutions like Dover’s CoreGuard at the core—which can prevent the exploitation of both known and zero-day vulnerabilities—device manufacturers are providing a long-term, easily updatable, and highly secure solution. 

To learn more about our CoreGuard technology, request a demo today.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

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PublishedJuly 21, 2021

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