What are Cyber-Physical Systems?



OTORIO’s Solution


OTORIO’s Benefits

  • Ability to conduct a safe operational security posture assessment without disturbing ongoing operations.
  • Improved ROI on pre-existing security controls and solutions by leveraging existing technology investments.
  • A comprehensive security assessment report, providing senior management with a full picture of the company’s OT cyber security posture.
  • Quick risk mitigation and hardening of site-specific OT network risks and vulnerabilities.
  • The company went from only relying upon detection to adopting a continuous, proactive risk-based assessment, mitigation, and management strategy to secure its OT environment.

Discover the power of Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) and learn about the challenges of protecting these systems.

An Overview of Cyber-Physical Systems

Cyber-physical systems (CPS) bring together sensing, computation, control, and networking to connect physical objects and infrastructure to the internet and each other. Such integration has a significant impact on areas such as transportation and energy, manufacturing, smart cities, and the environment and sustainability. However, such wide-scale connectivity also raises concerns about securing these systems from potential risks. Here we look at just a few cyber-physical system use cases.

Transportation and energy 

Cyber-physical systems revolutionizes how we interact with vehicles, roads, and energy grids. Smart transportation systems use cyber-physical systems to enhance efficiency, safety, and sustainability. For example, the promise of self-driving cars equipped with sensors and advanced computing can navigate roads autonomously, adapting to traffic conditions and avoiding accidents. Such cars can communicate with each other and with the infrastructure, thereby making traffic management more efficient and reducing congestion. 

Similarly, in the energy sector, cyber-physical systems enable the creation of smart grids that monitor energy consumption, optimize distribution, and integrate renewable energy sources. By analyzing real-time data and using control algorithms, CPS can balance the demand and supply of energy, leading to more reliable and sustainable energy systems.

Discover how OTORIO safeguards electric power systems

Smart cities 

Smart cities leverage cyber-physical systems to create intelligent and sustainable urban environments. By embedding sensors in various infrastructure such as streetlights, transportation systems, and waste management, it facilitates the collection of valuable data about a city's operations and the behavior of its residents. This data can be used to improve traffic flow, reduce energy consumption, and enhance public safety. 

For example, CPS can use sensors and real-time data analysis within in a smart city to optimize traffic signals, dynamically adjusting signal timings based on traffic conditions to minimize congestion and improve traffic efficiency. Moreover, CPS can integrate with surveillance systems to detect anomalies and potential security threats, ensuring a safer urban environment.

Environment and agriculture 

CPS plays a significant role in environmental sustainability by enabling intelligent monitoring, conservation, and resource management. Environmental sensors deployed in ecosystems are able to gather data on air quality, water quality, soil conditions, and biodiversity. It is then processed and analyzed in real-time, permitting proactive environmental management and early detection of ecological changes. 

Cyber-physical systems also support precision agriculture, where sensors in fields provide farmers with real-time information about soil moisture levels, nutrient content, and pest infestations. By optimizing resource usage and minimizing chemical use, CPS-based systems promote sustainable farming practices while protecting the environment.

Cyber-physical systems in manufacturing 

CPS is transforming traditional factories into smart and interconnected systems. By incorporating sensors into machines, cyber-physical systems enable real-time data collection on factors such as temperature, pressure, and vibration. This data can be analyzed and processed using computational algorithms, enabling manufacturers to optimize production processes, enhance efficiency, and minimize downtime. 

For example, in an automobile manufacturing plant, cyber-physical systems can monitor and control assembly line robots, adjusting their movements and optimizing production flow based on real-time feedback from the sensors. This integration of sensing, computation, control, and networking enhances productivity and reduces costs.

Securing cyber-physical systems 

While the integration of CPS brings numerous benefits, it also introduces new security challenges. Given their connection to critical infrastructure as well as the internet, cyber-physical systems become potential targets for cyber threats and unauthorized access. 

Securing cyber-physical systems involves protecting the underlying hardware, software, and communication channels from potential threats. A vulnerability in one component can propagate throughout your system, leading to devastating consequences. Therefore, robust security measures are essential to safeguard against such risks and protect sensitive data. Doing so involves using reliable authentication methods, encryption protocols, and intrusion detection systems. 

Regular monitoring and updates are also required to address emerging vulnerabilities. Collaboration among industry, academia, and government agencies is vital to establish best practices, develop standards, and conduct research to advance CPS security.

Cyber-physical systems within the oil & gas industry 

Cybersecurity attacks have increased in the oil and gas industry since it began interconnecting its automation and control systems. Securing these cyber-physical systems to monitor and regulate network activity include:

  • Implementing strong encryption protocols for secure communication between offshore platforms and onshore control centers to protect sensitive data being transmitted over long distances.

  • Deploying intrusion detection systems and firewalls to monitor and protect the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems that control and monitor critical processes in oil refineries and pipelines.

  • Conducting regular vulnerability assessments and penetration testing to identify and address potential weaknesses in the CPS infrastructure (e.g., weak access controls, outdated software, misconfigured network devices).

  • Employing physical security measures, such as surveillance cameras, access control systems, and biometric authentication to protect control rooms and other critical infrastructure from unauthorized physical access.

  • Establishing partnerships and collaborations with OT cybersecurity experts and organizations to share threat intelligence, best practices, and emerging technologies for enhancing CPS security within the industry.

By implementing these requirements and examples, the oil and gas industry can mitigate risks and ensure the reliable and safe operation of its critical infrastructure.

Read how OTORIO helped an oil refinery eliminate alert fatigue

The Importance of Cyber-Physical Systems

Cyber-physical systems represent a transformative technological model that integrates sensing, computation, control, and networking into physical objects and infrastructure. They have revolutionized various sectors, including transportation and energy, manufacturing, smart cities, as well as the environment and sustainability. However, ensuring CPS security is paramount due to their interconnected nature. 

Robust security measures, including encryption, authentication, and regular updates, are necessary to protect cyber-physical systems from potential threats and vulnerabilities. Harnessing the potential of CPS while addressing security concerns enables you to unlock a future of unprecedented efficiency, innovation, and interconnectedness. By doing so, you can continue to leverage the potential of cyber-physical systems while ensuring their integrity and protecting sensitive information.

Organizations must focus on operational resilience management (ORM) beyond information-centric cybersecurity. The OTORIO platform enables you to achieve an integrated, holistic security strategy for industrial control systems (ICS) and cyber-physical systems (CPS). No matter where you are in your operational security journey, we’re here to help you take the next step.