Supply chain
Network security enhancement investments crucial for IIoT
Ninelu Tu, Taipei; Willis Ke, DIGITIMES

Long noted for stringent computer system security management, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) recently unexpectedly suffered a virus infection at part of its fab tools and computer systems, fueling concerns of how enterprises address similar network security problems in the era of Internet of Everything, particularly industrial IoT (IIoT) and smart manufacturing operations.

TSMC has stressed that the virus infection incident was mainly caused by human errors seen in the process of software installation at new fab equipment. But for companies - whether the virus is spread to internal computer systems due to possible hacker attacks during system installation; or erroneous software installation at new tools; or whether the virus is spread to private cloud systems to various fabs due mainly to improper operation by internal engineers and their failure to fix it immediately - the key point is how to figure out effective ways to stall external hacker attacks and tackle possible internal network security problems.

In a single machine operation environment, once any single machine malfunctions, only that particular machine has to be shut down, repaired or replaced. But in the IIoT world, whether in the open Internet environment, semi-closed or fully-closed intranet environments, any small virus can be immediately spread to all networks through any single machine, equipment or system connected to the networks, paralyzing the operation of the networks or generating new parameters to affect production. Such potential risks may arise from poor internal operation, usage and management practices, in addition to hacker attacks from outside networks.

For most manufacturers, they would face much larger risks than TSMC from incorporating fully digitalized and networking IIoT environments, especially now that many IIoT platforms highlight open-type platform architectures in addition to networking and digitalization.

TSMC's virus infection incident should be a lesson for manufacturers about security issues facing the future development of the IIoT industry - although that should not deter them from embracing that future.

Nevertheless, if it is an irreversible trend for manufacturers to march toward the development of IIoT operations and the danger of hacker attacks or virus infection will not disappear at all, then how to prevent, stall, eliminate and tackle diverse hacker attacks and virus infections will actually create a new "blue ocean" market that one may want to invest in.

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