Rise in internet-connected devices creates new cybersecurity concerns

As the so-called “internet of things” continues to grow, so does the need for workers who can protect companies against a new wave of cyberintrusions.

“Everybody knows that the demand for this talent is going to be strong,” said Bill Russell, executive director of global information security at Columbus, Indiana-based Cummins Inc. “I have to have a pipeline of cybersecurity talent.”

Russell was one of five panelists who spoke Friday at Aerospace & Defense in Indiana, an industry event presented by IBJ as well as the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and Conexus Indiana.

Cybersecurity—and the need for workers in this field—was a recurring topic at the event.

The aerospace and defense industry’s interest in cybersecurity is especially keen now with the rise in internet-connected devices. 

As an example, Russell said, Cummins is now producing engines with components that generate a constant stream of data and communicate with online networks in real time. These connections provide new opportunities for outside intruders to infiltrate this network and cause disruption.

Cummins’ production facilities are also highly networked, making them another possible intrusion target, Russell said.

Raytheon Co., a defense contractor which has about 1,000 employees at its Indianapolis plant, is facing similar concerns.

“We have to prepare ourselves for the inevitability of someone getting on our systems,” said Rimas Guzulaitis, a senior director of program management at Raytheon.

Looking into the future, Guzulaitis said, companies like Raytheon are moving towards software that can detect outside intrusions and address them without causing disruption to the vehicle’s operator.

The key, Guzulaitis said, is to recruit workers with the skill sets to tackle these challenges. At Raytheon, that means finding people with backgrounds in things like math, engineering, statistics and analytics.

At Cummins, Russell said, the company recently formed a partnership with Ivy Tech Community College to improve the pipeline of qualified cybersecurity workers. In December, Cummins hired its first graduates through this partnership.

But, Russell said, “We can’t rely entirely on the universities and the community colleges” to address the state’s cybersecurity needs. The process begins in grades K-12, where schools can impart both technical knowledge and an overall awareness of cybersecurity issues.

Another challenge, the panelists said, is that many aerospace and defense suppliers are smaller companies that may not have adequate cybersecurity resources. And if an intruder infiltrates a supplier, that intrusion can have a ripple effect on its customers.

“Sometimes, the first step is asking a supplier, ‘How do you secure your data?’” Russell said. 

And sometimes, Russell said, suppliers don’t have a ready answer for that question. “We’re really at the beginning of that journey.”

Raytheon is addressing the issue by taking a mentorship role with some of its smaller suppliers, Guzulaitis said.

Doug Rapp, adviser for cybersecurity and national security initiatives at the IEDC, said Indiana generally has a good ecosystem of universities that are preparing new cybersecurity graduates, and of companies working in the field.

The key, Rapp said, is collaboration. Cybersecurity affects both the public and the private sector, and these various parties need to work together to tackle the problem.

“We all need to understand it," he said.

Including both private companies and the military, an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 people work in the aerospace and defense industry around the state, said Ryan Metzing, director of Conexus’ aerospace and defense initiative.

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