Software that encrypts manufacturing data has been developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology

Encryption solution for manufacturing data resists hacking

Software that encrypts manufacturing data so as to prevent piracy and data theft will be revealed at a trade show next week.

While design data is generally well-protected from unauthorised outside access today, unsecured, computer-guided production machinery and networks in production facilities are gradually evolving into gateways for theft of production data.

This data determines the production process for a product, meaning that whoever possesses this information merely needs the right equipment to pirate or counterfeit the product.

But researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology (SIT) in Darmstadt will show how these security gaps can be closed at this year’s CeBIT IT tradeshow, which starts on Monday, where they will be presenting a software application that immediately encrypts manufacturing data as soon as it emerges.

“To the best of our knowledge, no comparable safeguard has previously existed for manufacturing data that reside directly in the machine tool,” said Thomas Dexheimer from the SIT’s Security Testlab.

Integrated into computer and equipment, Digital Rights Management (DRM) ensures that both communicate with each other through a protected transportation channel and that only licensed actions are executed.

The software controls all parameters of the assignment, such as designated use and quantity, meaning brand manufacturers are able to guarantee that even external producers can only produce an authorized quantity and no additional pirated units.

Dr Carsten Rudolph, Trust and Compliance department head at SIT, will also be exhibiting his ‘Trusted Core Network’ at CeBIT.

“Hackers can also gain access to sensitive production data via unsecured network components. These are small computers themselves, and can be easily manipulated,” he said.

In order to prevent this, he called upon one piece of technology that, for the most part, lies dormant and unused on most PCs – the Trusted Platform Module. This relates to a small computer chip that can encrypt, decrypt, and digitally sign the data. Installed into a network component, it indicates which software is running on the component, and assigns a distinct identity to it.

“As soon as the software changes in a component, the adjacent component registers this occurrence and notifies the administrator. Hacker attacks can be exposed quickly and easily this way,” said Rudolph.

“Both security technologies are important building blocks for the targeted Industry 4.0 scenario,” said Dexheimer.

The term “Industry 4.0” stands for the fourth industrial revolution, referring to the rise of machine to machine communication and the Internet of Things in manufacturing processes.

“This revolution can only work if the intellectual property is sufficiently protected. And that’s a tall order, because the targets of production IT will increase exponentially, due to ever growing digitization and networking,” said Dexheimer.

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