Simple Steps for IIoT Cloud Security

BY MEGAN RAY NICHOLS

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) makes it easier than ever to track and analyze data, integrate multiple different hardware platforms and achieve next-gen connectivity. While it serves as a one-stop shop for many manufacturers, some find it difficult to maintain proper security. Facing threats from all angles, it’s impossible to safeguard your system against every possible cyber-attack. You can, however, take some steps to ensure your initial preparedness and bolster your reaction time in the event of an intrusion.

Monitoring Evolving Industry Standards

Despite its usefulness, the IIoT is anything but standardized. Much of the technology powering the platform is still in its infancy, so the ultimate potential of the IIoT is subject to future breakthroughs and innovations in general IT. This makes it difficult to adopt standards for network security, cloud access and IIoT integration – but that hasn’t stopped some organizations from trying.

Make sure to research the security systems of any cloud services or IIoT devices you incorporate within your company to make sure you receive the quality protection you deserve. Companies tend to use unique strategies to ensure security across their networks, so it’s important to find one that aligns with your needs, requirements and expectations. Although there isn’t a strict protocol for processing and securing such vast amounts of data, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) recently established ISA99 standards for industrial automation and control systems security.

But ISA99 is also a work in progress. A part of the larger IEC 62443 series of regulations and codes, the IEC hopes to usher in a new age of security and efficiency throughout the entire industry.

Establishing Your Own Best Practices

It’s important for manufacturers to develop their own best practices in regards to IIoT technology. Not only does this help you to maintain acceptable standards of data collection, storage and security for the time being, but it also enables you to retain the option of transitioning over to new industry regulations as they develop.

The process of establishing your own best practices for IIoT integration depends on your unique requirements. Will your connected devices communicate via Bluetooth or a cellular connection? Do you have legacy hardware, such as tape backup, which currently holds your company’s critical data? Answering these questions is the first step in creating standards for IIoT integration.

Next, consider how your employees will access the cloud and your IIoT network. The rising popularity of smartphones and mobile devices has prompted some to embrace the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) model of connectivity. Others would rather limit access to the desktop computers and workstations around the factory.

Identifying and outlining your exact needs is critical when balancing network accessibility with cloud security, and it makes the process of safeguarding your system as straightforward and simple as can be.

Implementing Security to Protect Your Data

The final step in achieving IIoT cloud security requires you to introduce the systems that will secure your network. Manufacturers use various tools to protect their data, including encryption, file signatures and firewalls.

Keep in mind that you’re protecting your digital assets from external and internal threats. By placing all the focus on counteracting and preventing cyber-attacks, it’s easy to lose track of employees who might have physical access to your IIoT cloud. This is where user access privileges, consistent system administration and strong password requirements are helpful.

Creating a Security Model That is Versatile, Flexible and Scalable

It’s also important to develop a security model that is adaptable to future trends and innovations. Hardware regarded as groundbreaking today will be replaced by newer, upgraded versions within the coming years. Likewise, hackers and cybercriminals are always devising new and innovative ways to access vulnerable systems and take advantage of weaknesses before they’re patched.  It’s a never-ending tug of war that requires a lot of diligence on behalf of your IT team because the success of your company might depend on it.

Newtonian vs. Non-Newtonian Liquids

By Megan Ray Nichols

If you’ve seen any viral videos in the last few years, you’re probably familiar with the concept of non-Newtonian fluids — liquids that are fluid when moving slowly but when struck with force, they take on a solid consistency. Videos have gone viral of people filling entire swimming pools with a mixture of water and cornstarch, allowing them to literally run across the surface of the water. What is the difference between a Newtonian fluid and its non-Newtonian counterpart, and where might you encounter these fluids in your daily life?’

Newtonian vs. Non-Newtonian Liquids

First, what is the difference between Newtonian and non-Newtonian fluids?

Newtonian fluids have a constant viscosity that doesn’t change, no matter the pressure being applied to the fluid. This also means they don’t compress.

Non-Newtonian fluids are just the opposite — if enough force is applied to these fluids, their viscosity will change. These fluids are broken up into two categories — dilatants, which get thicker when force is applied, and pseudoplastics, which get thinner under the same circumstances.

These can be further broken down into rheopectic and thixotropic categories. Rheopectics work like dilatants in that they get thicker when force is applied. Thixotropic materials get thinner, like pseudoplastics do. The difference here is that the latter two categories are time dependant. The viscosity doesn’t change immediately but changes slowly over time as more and more force is applied.

Newtonian Fluids in Daily Life

These fancy names might sound like something out of a science fiction novel, but they’re really just the scientific names for things you encounter in your daily life. What Newtonian fluids have you encountered today?

If you took a shower this morning or had a drink, then you’ve already encountered the most common Newtonian fluid — water! Water does not change viscosity no matter how much pressure you put on it — it also cannot be compressed, so the amount of pressure you can put on water as a Newtonian fluid is negligible.

Other common Newtonian fluids include mineral oil, alcohol and gasoline.

Non-Newtonian Fluids in Daily Life

For this section, we’re going to break it down into the four categories of non-Newtonian liquid that we listed above.

Dilatants are probably the most well known nonnewtonian fluids. They become thick or almost solid when force is applied to them and are made up of water mixed with other materials. Oobleck, the colloquial name for a mixture of water and cornstarch, is probably the most well-known, but quicksand and silly putty also fall into this category.

Pseudoplastics might not sound very appetizing, but you probably have a bottle of one in your fridge right now. That’s right — ketchup is a non-Newtonian fluid. The fact that the viscosity changes as each new ingredient is added to the mix makes it tricky to mix ketchup on a large scale.

Now we get into the weird non-Newtonian fluids.

Rheopectic fluids get thicker in relation to the pressure being applied to them and the time that the pressure is being applied. The best example of a rheopectic fluid is cream. With enough time and pressure, cream becomes butter.

Thixotropic fluids are similar to pseudoplastics in that they get thinner as pressure is applied to them, but it’s also dependant on the time that the pressure is being applied. Things like cosmetics, asphalt and glue all fall into the thixotropic category.

It might seem like this is useless information, but it can actually be very useful, especially if you’re ever in a restaurant that still uses glass ketchup bottles. Simply remember that ketchup is a non-Newtonian pseudoplastic and will get thinner as more force is applied to it. Give that bottle a couple of good thumps, and you’ll be in French fry heaven.

Sources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIUEZ3AhrVE

https://blog.craneengineering.net/what-are-newtonian-and-non-newtonian-fluids

https://www.philamixers.com/news/how-condiments-are-made/

Spider Eyes are Nature’s Marvels

Now I do not exactly remember where and how I started my journey down this rabbit hole. But the deeper I went the more interesting it became. It was a great learning experience. I’m clearly not an expert. Here I share the understanding I developed of the spider eye over the few hours of exploration. For this I referred to various sources all of which are mentioned in the links. And if you know more or would like to add something interesting to the article please let me know in the comments below.

The  first thing about spider eyes is that 99% of spiders have 8 eyes. A little less than 1% of them have 6 eyes. In some fringe species there are 4, 2 or no eyes at all. Apparently, based on the pattern these eyes are arranged in, on their cephalothorax (let us mortals call it the ‘head’ to make things simple), the family to which the spider belongs can be determined. Some blessed human, made the following schematic to help us do exactly that. In case you ever feel the need to do so, here it is:

And in much greater detail, right here.

For their small size and the limited number of photocells, spider eyes, especially the jumping spider’s (Salticids) eyes perform surprisingly well. Their resolution is better compared with larger mammals than with insects. In the human world a camera of such standards this would simply be an engineering miracle. You will understand why I say that soon…

In the image above if you locate the family Salticidae, you will see those two large eye in the front which are particularly very interesting. These are called the principal eyes (or anterior median eyes) and are the ones that allow high resolution vision. So much that the spider would be able to resolve two spots on a screen 20 cm away from the spider, sitting just 0.12 mm apart from each other. An acuity of about ten times that of a dragonfly – 0.04°.

The brain of this spider, show in blue in the image below is pretty big for its size. The proportion of the volume of brain to body is more or less similar to that of human beings. The brain of Salticids also have a rather large region dedicated for visual processing.

The principal eyes we are talking about are in the shape of elongated tubes as seen below, in the front of which is a hard lens and at the other end is a layer of photocells. Inside the tube, near the retina is another little lens which moves back and forth along the tube like a telephoto lens system. These elongated tubes are like the tubes of a binocular which allow for a higher resolution using a small package.

However the downside of such a tube like architecture is that it limits the field of vision. Here’s how that problem is dealt with.

The front part, with the big corneal lens is fixed. It has a long fixed focal length. The farther end where the retina is located, is connected to these muscles shown in red. These muscles allow for the tube’s farther end to move around in several degrees of freedom to make quick movements and scan a larger image in its head, one small field of view at a time.

In the video below you can see the retinal end of the black tubes moving around inside the translucent exoskeleton of the spider as the spider forms a high resolution complete image of its surroundings, one small field of view at a time.

If you peer deep into their eyes you will see a dark (black) when you are looking into the small retina. However when the farther end of the tube moves, you see a honey brown color with spots. This is the inner wall of the tube that you are seeing in the following video.

Then the retina itself is another biological marvel. Unlike our single layered retina, the Salticid’s retina is made up of four layers. The four layers are arranged one behind the other. This lets the nature pack more photocells in a smaller area and also helps the spider see in color as different colors (different wavelengths) with different refractive indices are focused in different planes.

Counting from the rear end, the spider uses different layers of retina to obtain different colors of the image. The retina’s layer 1 and 2 to get the green color (~580 nm – 520 nm wavelengths), blue color using the layer 3 (~480 – 500 nm wavelengths) and layer 4 for ultraviolet (~360 nm).

An important detail in the above image reveals how spiders manage to keep focus on different objects at different depths, in focus. The layer one has photocells arranged in a step fashion, with varying distance from the lens which makes sure that all objects are focused on at least one part of the layer 1.

The other problem of distance estimation which matters a lot for jumping spiders is again solved rather elegantly by the same apparatus. Humans use their stereo vision – two eyes which are far apart to estimate distance. Other animals move heads to do the same but I’m not getting into that.

Jumping spiders employ a completely different algorithm, utilizing degree of blur cues. For which the second layer plays a crucial role. The second layer would have received a sharp blue image, but they are not sensitive to blue light like I mentioned above. The green they detect is rather blurred at that plane. It turns out that the amount of blur depends on the distance of the object and helps the spider determine the depth by processing the amount of blur in the image. Hence allowing it to jump and hunt accurately.

If you are a university student with free access to journals, I think a quick look at the paper titled: “‘Eight-legged cats’ and how they see – a review of recent research on jumping spiders,” will help you delve into greater detail.

Psst: Someone has it uploaded on research gate for free access for I don’t know how long: here.

Please leave a comment below to let me know your thoughts on this, or if you have any ideas for future posts. I plan to reward the top commentators every month so do not forget to say something.