What role does cybersecurity play in today's world?
The Internet is an everyday tool for people in both their personal and professional lives. It has radically changed the way we interact with our environment: online stores, connected factories, connected vehicles, connected people, etc.
Increasingly, the company's very business is based on internet technologies. Even industrial systems are increasingly connected to the Internet to offer new functionalities.
For example, an electricity distribution company can determine the electricity consumption of our homes remotely. Any interference with smart meters could have a detrimental impact on the business and the end user. This makes cybersecurity a key factor in ensuring that electronic products, connections and the flow of information are secure.
How does all this relate to the situation of Basque industry?
Industrial companies in the Basque Country, especially the larger ones, are aware that they cannot miss the boat when it comes to digitalisation and they are committed to applying these technologies in order to provide added value to their products and processes and also to improve their service levels.
For example, we are all aware of the importance of safety considerations in the world of railways: level crossings, signalling, access to the train, power and speed control… Nowadays, all these systems are controlled electronically and ensuring the cybersecurity of these elements is crucial.
What kind of companies or industries are the most vulnerable to attacks?
Any company in any industry can suffer an attack. Regardless of the specific level of vulnerability, the risk of being attacked is contingent upon the direct or indirect benefit that someone may gain from this action. The field of cybersecurity is very broad, and at IKERLAN we focus on the industrial sector.
What our experience with our industrial clients tells us is that the first step must be to establish mechanisms to detect threats and vulnerabilities. In other words, not waiting for something to happen, but anticipating possible incidents. These can be of several types: machine stoppages, unwanted alterations to the production process, data theft, etc. Considering the circumstances and needs of each company, at IKERLAN we tailor make the most suitable solutions.
¿What would you say to entrepreneurs who remain sceptical about investing in cybersecurity?
Although the dangers are always there, at IKERLAN we do not advocate a culture of fear. Rather, we rely on planning and anticipation to establish cybersecurity strategies, allowing companies to be better prepared to deal with this risk.
Also, in the international arena, we are witnessing that having electronic products with cybersecurity features is becoming a competitive advantage in some sectors and countries. We believe that companies in the Basque Country are well positioned to take advantage of this opportunity.
In the same way, cybersecurity is not only for protection but also allows new functionalities to be generated; for example, the new blockchain technologies allow relationships of trust to be established in a supply chain. This is allowing new disruptive business models to emerge in the Basque industry. The creation of new added value makes investment in cybersecurity worthwhile in and of itself.
What approach does IKERLAN take?
Our industrial cyber security efforts are focused on protecting electronic systems and their associated digital platforms. Our philosophy is to include cybersecurity from the very beginning of the electronic systems design and the life cycle of the industrial products. We then seek to provide solutions at all stages of the digitalisation value chain, from the sensor to the cloud, within our IKERLAN KONNEKT platform.
In addition, the role of cybersecurity certifications is becoming increasingly important for companies. These certifications serve as a guide and establish guidelines when incorporating cybersecurity technologies.
In order to respond to all these requirements, IKERLAN has certified personnel and state-of-the-art infrastructures such as our Industrial Cybersecurity Laboratory.
Do we have professionals trained in this area in the Basque Country?
In the Basque Country, Cybersecurity ecosystems have been created and are being promoted by both the public sector (BCSC, Basque Cybersecurity Center, ZIUR) and the private sector (new cluster CYBASQUE).
At IKERLAN we have the largest R&D team in the Basque Country for industrial cybersecurity related to electronic systems and their associated digital platforms. Despite the recent difficulties in attracting specialised professionals, our efforts in the field and the continuous investment in specialisation have resulted in a team of 35 cybersecurity researchers. At IKERLAN we are committed to continuous specialisation and we work with practically all the Basque universities in the form of doctoral these and other research mechanisms.
The aim of this commitment to training and specialisation, together with close collaboration with companies, universities and other agents, is to support Basque companies so that they become leaders in industrial cybersecurity technologies.
Interview published in the special cybersecurity supplement of the Diario Vasco.