An Interview with Antonio Grasso on Industry 4.0 and Cybersecurity

When you mesh up industrial processes, Machine to Machine (M2M), Internet of Things (IoT) and automation, you end up with industry 4.0. Basically, it is a revolution in the industrial sector that harnesses the power of M2M and IoT technology and helps manufacturers enhance their industrial processes and productivity.

Unfortunately, when you expose a sector to the ever-expanding digital world, you expose it to various cybersecurity threats as well.

To learn more about the industry 4.0, its cybersecurity aspects and its future, we invited a renowned cybersecurity influencer in the 4.0 industry, Antonio Grasso and he was kind enough to agree for an interview.

Let’s get straight to the interview:

Q.1 – Let’s kick it off with an introduction of your company. What’s the mission of DBI (Digital Business Innovation)? How did it all begin? What’s the story behind it?

After 33 years of worth experience in the IT sector for enterprises and governments, I started up my own company with the focus on the Emerging Technology, particularly to help businesses in the Digital Transformation process. Actually we help several local startups in the digital innovation to realize their business idea. We act as startup mentor and advisor bringing idea to success starting from software design and coding to go-to-market operations.

I work also as a tech influencer to help large multinational companies and governments to design the correct communication strategy in a transforming world. Our top organizations are Siemens, Intel and the European Commission.

Moreover, I work with many international startups as advisor board member.

Q.2 – What do you think about Industry 4.0? How is it transforming organizational systems and processes?

The industrial automation has a long history starting from the steam machines till the robotic and now with the cyber physical systems. The 4th Industrial Revolution is not just a technology advancement, it is more because we are facing a new relation with machines that are becoming intelligent and can communicate with other machines without needs of human intervention. This change the whole vision of our relation with machines because we need to adapt our organization and our processes to this paradigm shift. No more stupid machines that need to be programmed for but a new kind of machines that learn from experience. We need to change our culture too.

Q.3 – One common argument is that Industry 4.0 can be particularly vulnerable from a cyber-security point of view. If there is an attack, organizational operations can come to a standstill. What precautionary measures do you suggest to prevent any threat?

The Cyber Security in our digital transforming world is a hard issue; as said before, we need to change the way we relate with the technology and we need to understand that the more digital we become, the more attacks we can face. Cyber-attacks and data breaches can slow the entire digital transformation process!

Moreover, actually we are unable to guarantee a “secure system”.

So, the only way to face it, is to manage the IT security using a double approach: Proactive and Reactive.

As first I think is important to conduct a global assessment of the whole risks and vulnerabilities. This can be done by preparing a document called “Cyber Risk Assessment” where you analyze all the potential risks and discover all the vulnerabilities of our systems. This is the proactive action to do “before” we implement a new system or ASAP in case of existing systems.

Then we need to accept that, sooner or later, we will receive an attack, so planning our response to that attack or data breach is very important; we can do it preparing a document called “Cyber Emergency Response Plan”; it will guide the organization in the treatment of any data breaches or unauthorized intrusion, planning in advance “what we need to do”.

But do not forget the educational side of the IT security, is very important to engage the employees in many educational activities fostering a renewed sensibility of the importance of the knowledge in the cyber defense strategy. If, for example, they continue to use a dummy password, all the measures we can take, will be un-useful.

Q.4 – What are the biggest challenges associated with Internet of Things (IoT) devices and how can we counter them? Also, there are many benefits of IoT, which ones do you find the most interesting?

IoT is a gift for both the industrial automation and our daily life; we will use it more and more in the coming future. For the human being, smart home, smart cities, connected cars and more, they will become a reality very soon.

Sadly, the more IoT devices we will use, the more cyber threats we will face.

This is the biggest challenge in my view.

We can try to soften it using a “continuous update” system to keep patched the devices day by day. An automated system that update in real time our devices to install the latest update against malware.

We should not see IoT only as connected objects, we need to see it as a way to connect yourself with other humans too. Something like Internet of “Human” Things to foster a different kind of data exchange with each other. This is what I like the most of the next Internet of Things evolution. From wearables to health-tech, we will see a big evolution of how we “create data” and how this data is exchanged.

Q.5 – Where do you see digital transformation in the next 10 years? What advice can you give SME organizations when it comes to adapting to a fast-moving digital world?

We are living a magic moment in the digital world. Many emerging technologies are reshaping our business lives. Depending on the industry, Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Blockchain can make a big impact.

Moreover, the convergence of two or more emerging technologies can dramatically accelerate the digital transformation process creating a disruptive innovation.

I think Robotic Process Automation (RPA) backed by Machine Learning can really accelerate the decision of each business process creating the Autonomous Business Process. A new way of work that also involves humans as the fulcrum of the entire enterprise. This is an instrumental and sustainable innovation.

Q.6 – There are many products and services available in the market related to Internet security and privacy. How can companies select the most suitable solutions for their needs?

I think they cannot do that without an external expert that can help them to fit the right solution after an assessment. But on top, do not rely only to the technical side of the cyber defense strategy, put the most efforts or organizational and educational.

Q.7 – What influenced you to choose this career path? Is there anyone that you follow pretty closely?

I feel the technology as part of myself, I have a special relation with the software.

Since I was young, I have always felt a strong attraction for everything that is technological.

Actually, I keep myself updated reading quite a few resources from the biggest multinational companies like Deloitte, Accenture, McKinsey, PwC, Gartner, Boston Consulting Group, MIT Sloan and more.

Q.8 – Here are some rapid-fire questions (share your preferences):

a) VPN or Tor?

Antonio: VPN

b) Excel or Google Sheet?

Antonio: Google sheet

c) Android or IOS?

Antonio: Android

d) Windows or Linux or Mac?

Antonio: Windows

Final Words

The Internet of Things is the future, and there’s no denying that. IoT is making its presence felt in not only the industrial sector but also dozens of other sectors across the globe. And, as the technology spreads far and wide, it will be targeted by more cyber threats.

Nonetheless, we hope that our readers enjoyed this insightful interview with Antonio Grasso and gained some valuable insights from it.

Shahrukh Ghanchi is cybersecurity enthusiast, media analyst and movie buff all rolled into one. Always scouring the web for news, industry experts and trends.

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