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Industrial cybersecurity, the key to safeguard industrial competitiveness


Its importance is growing in parallel with the advances in the Internet of Things

Industrial cybersecurity, the key to safeguard industrial competitiveness


  • IK4-IKERLAN works with companies such as Orona to develop safe products
  • "In the future it will be practically impossible to do business without having cybersecurity systems"

Industry 4.0 and the internet of things are now a reality: more devices in our environment are increasingly connected to the internet and the companies are exploring the enormous field of opportunities that has opened up before them as a result of the application of digital connectivity to their products and the way they are manufactured. However, this situation is not free of threats, and the Basque companies are adopting positions in the field of cybersecurity to protect themselves against the risks arising as a result of the new context.

One of the most highly demanded features of the new products and capital goods will be the reliability of the communications in its electronic systems. For this reason, industrial cybersecurity will be one of the competitive keys of industry 4.0. Companies such as Orona are already collaborating with the IK4-IKERLAN technological centre to ensure that their products are resistant against possible cyber attacks, loss of information or even industrial espionage.

The connection of everyday objects to the internet is an unstoppable phenomenon which affects all sectors of activity, a reality which underlines the importance of security in this context: "in a not too distant future it will be practically impossible to do business without cybersecure systems", warns the IK4-IKERLAN industrial cybersecurity manager, David González.

"Cybersecurity is not just a need arising from the increasing connectivity of the devices we use, but also an opportunity to increase the competitiveness of companies by offering more secure products which allow them to stand out in the market", he explains.

Industrial cybersecurity is a cross-cutting aspect, applicable to those sectors in which the embedded systems play an important role. For example, any manufacturer of industrial electronic components will soon have to offer products with high security requirements.

Industry 4.0 and cybersecurity

The connection of machines via the internet and artificial intelligence means that the possibilities for optimising processes, developing products and achieving novelty functionalities have sky-rocketed. In addition, the capacity of these systems to collect and treat data thanks to sensor system technologies and big data analysis is leading to new associated businesses.

This interconnection, which implies countless benefits, also entails certain risks, as it may offer certain loopholes through which a cyberattacker can cause damage or steal information. There have been cases of cyberattacks against industries which have caused paralysation of the productive plants, and industrial espionage is increasingly more common in the virtual context.

Example of success

IK4-IKERLAN works with different Basque companies of very diverse sizes and sectors to help them avoid these risks. These collaborations may encompass from the development of secure devices based on cryptographic chips to the design and implementation of cybersecurity measures in industrial control systems.

In this sense, it is worth highlighting their joint work with Orona to integrate cybersecurity technologies for industrial communications which enable the advanced lift control and maintenance service process.

This initiative enables progress in the incorporation of information technologies in the lifts which allow the secure exchange of data and contribute to the improvement of their customer service through predictive maintenance techniques.

The project is included in Basque Industry 4.0, an ambitious, newly-created programme dependent on the Basque Government.

The abilities of IK4-IKERLAN

“In IK4-IKERLAN, during the last few years we have developed a large part of our activity together with our clients on the different technologies which make up the industrial electronic systems of the future: reliable embedded systems, robust industrial communications, sensor systems or big data analysis, among others. Now, we are promoting our cybersecurity area by creating a specialized team" explains González.

The companies are beginning to invest with increasing intensity in this field, and the abilities of IK4-IKERLAN will be strengthened as a result. Currently, the centre has a team of 15 people dedicated to this aspect, and this number is expected to grow to reach twenty in 2020, to offer a better response to the market requirements.

IK4-IKERLAN has an industrial security research project development plan worth over 1.5 million euros, which will allow it to gain the necessary abilities to meet the future demands of the industry. Collaborations are also being promoted with leading institutions, an essential factor in such a multidisciplinary field as is that of cybersecurity. Along this line, the centre maintains a work relationship with the Instituto Nacional de Ciberseguridad (INCIBE - National Institute of Cybersecurity) and is a part of the national network of certified cybersecurity laboratories.

“R&D&I focused on cybersecurity requires a significant investment, specialisation of the workforce and collaboration with other entities in order to tackle the multiple problems which companies face", summarises the centre researcher.


The IK4-IKERLAN centre is a leader in technology transfer, in the specialisation of its researchers and in the contribution it makes to the competitive value of companies. It offers comprehensive solutions by combining different technological fields. This is made possible by its high specialisation in three major areas: Electronics, Information and Communication, energy and power electronics and Advanced manufacturing technologies. Its current workforce is made up of over 250 qualified employees.

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