Technology fights hacking of manufacturing data

Industrial design imageResearchers in Germany are trying to close a security breach that allows industrial intellectual property (IP) to be stolen from manufacturing data.

At this year's CeBIT exhibition in Hannover, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute demonstrated software that can be used to automatically encrypt digital design data used in the production of industrial components if someone tries to unlawfully download it.

Manufacturing data determine the production process for a product, and are just as valuable today as the design plans, according to the Fraunhofer researchers, who note that whoever possesses this information simply needs the right equipment to produce a counterfeit.

"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 of the Institute's Secure Information Technology (SIT) test lab.

The software controls important parameters of the manufacturing assignment, such as designated use and quantity. As a result, brand manufacturers can use it to make sure contract manufacturers or licensees can only produce authorised quantities, preventing 'after hours' runs of pirated units.

Another SIT project is developing a dormant chip - called the Trusted Platform Module - that can be placed within network components and alerts the administrator if a hacking attack is detected.

Both security technologies are important building blocks for industry 4.0 - or the fourth industrial revolution - which refers 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 digitisation and networking," said Dexheimer.

- The Fraunhofer Institute also unveiled a tool called Appicaptor at CeBIT that can detect security flaws in mobile apps on Android and iOS devices that can be used to steal passwords or data when installed onto company-owned devices.

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