IMPROVING CYBERSECURITY IN OT ENVIRONMENT
WITH DIGITAL TWINS
WITH DIGITAL TWINS
Digital twins are a promising technology to help companies forecast, optimize and improve OT environments.
One of the benefits of this technology is that they are based on a virtual process model and it can create future simulations on how a physical process will work under specific circumstances
As a result, they help to make better decisions aided
by real and fictitious simulated scenarios.
WHAT IS A DIGITAL TWIN?
A digital twin is a virtual replica of a physical system and continually adapts its state to operational changes based on the collected data
from the physical system. It can be implemented over a Cyber-Physical System or over an entire network, such as a 5G network.
As a result, there are many potential applications in areas such as the industry, healthcare, manufacturing, aerospace, automotive, agriculture, architecture and urbanism.
The development of digital twins is based on technologies, such as artificial intelligence, 3D modeling, 5G networks, cloud computing, Internet of Things and big data to create next-generation simulations. A digital twin uses a real-time connection between the physical and virtual components to forecast the future of the physical component, simulate different system conditions and provide advanced decision-making using the collected data.
Also, it is possible to make more accurate predictions using analytic, predictive diagnosis, and performance optimization.
Other uses of digital twins include reducing costs and risks, improving efficiency, security and resilience.
DIGITAL TWINS TO IMPROVE CYBERSECURITY
In cybersecurity, there are many applications to predict, reduce and effectively manage risks.
Digital twins can also help to improve the existing security approaches. In particular, combined with artificial intelligence, they allow organizations to scale up defenses and situational awareness.
Some applications of digital twins to improve the cybersecurity are presented as follows.
on the system design
The digital twin can simulate various types
of system compromises and can be used
to analyze how the system behaves under attack and estimate potential damages.
This facilitates designing the security and safety mechanisms to create more robust
and fault-tolerant designs.
As a result, the virtual representation may help reducing the attack surface by revealing weak spots in the architecture, unnecessary functionalities on the devices or unprotected services.
Assist on the intrusion
Digital twins can help to create Intrusion Detection Systems based on the system behavior. The virtual representation identifies any behavior deviation at runtime between the virtual replica and the physical system.
The advantage of this detection approach
is that it does not run on constrained devices such as PLCs.
As a result, it is possible to use methods
that require increased computing resources such as machine learning and deep learning.
Also, executing the intrusion detection algorithm on the digital twin helps
to preserve the computing resources
of the real system and has no adverse
impact on its efficiency.
This point is important, since most OT environments have real-time constraints.
Security testing and modelling
Security tests in OT environments are a critical activity, due to the tests can produce business interruption or even physical damages.
In this context, digital twins can be used
to understand the attacker’s mindset, potential attack patterns, and their impact.
Ethical hackers can perform security tests
on the digital twins instead of on real systems.
As a result, the digital twins can be
to stress the system, evaluate
the vulnerabilities and security controls
on a realistic environment without affecting the production environment.
The ability to attack a live copy
of the production environment without putting the business at risk allows security teams to test better the system without compromising operations.
Improve incident response
A digital twin can assist on the decision-making to mitigate security incidents.
Using simulations on different scenarios
and conditions, the virtual representation can create decision trees to determine
the most appropriate response.
All the collected data and the testing activity
in the digital twin can be registered
in a database, to automatically learn
and create more sophisticated decisions
to efficiently protect the system.
Besides, digital twins can evaluate
the system changes as if they were deployed
on the real environment.
To sum up, security teams can use resources
on the most important tasks to respond efficiently and measure which configurations, technologies or actions are most effective
to reduce the impact of the attack.
Patch management on OT environments
is challenging due to the difficulty
of understanding the impact of applying
a software update or configuration change
on the overall system.
In addition, testing in isolation is either expensive,time-consuming or simply does
not cover system wide impacts.
Digital twins can help to overcome these challenges. The impact of applying a patch can be tested without impacting the production environment.
Also, they can provide automation
of the security tests as part of regression testing for new functionalities in the development life-cycle.
Digital twins are a training tool for operators, engineers and cyber security practitioners
to recognize compromise of the real system and practice response procedures accordingly.
During the training, the operators can practice, for example, how to diagnose
the system to identify the extent of the compromise,the availability and integrity
of the system control, when to declare
an emergency, initiate the safe shutdown process or take appropriate response actions to secure the OT process according to the level of compromise.
Besides, digital twin cyber-range environment helps to promote practical engagements and war games.
According to future projections, nearly everything in the physical world will have a digital twin, including infrastructure, supply chains, consumer products, and more. Metaverses are becoming big tech changers by connecting virtual experiences and simulations to create new real-world experiences.
In this context, digital twins are key technologies to connect both realms.
By simulating risks in an environment that mirrors the real world, companies can predict better where hackers will strike, how the attack may be done,
and how damaging it will be. This information is essential for organizations to anticipate cyber-attacks, manage the risks efficiently and respond with effective methods.