What Is Data Security? Strategies for Effective Cybersecurity Automation

Written by: Sam Elsner

Read Time: 4 min

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Although it’s a cheesy quote from a comic book-inspired movie, it is surprisingly relevant to the automation industry today. As data becomes increasingly valuable, it unfortunately also becomes more vulnerable to attack from ransomware, hackers, and even malicious insiders. From the number of bottles filled in a processing line to the type of products that consumers are buying online and in stores, data is being gathered all around us to provide better analytics and enable smarter business decisions. Making sure that this data stays in the appropriate hands can make all the difference—and that starts with understanding data security and how to best support it through automation.

What is data security and security automation? 

With digital transformations and industrial connectivity being front of mind for organizations that want to cut costs and improve efficiency, having the right technology is more important than ever before. While developing your strategy, it is vital to keep data security and options for automation in mind.

Data security is essential in today’s business landscape. Media headlines are filled with news of brands that have had their customer data compromised and suffered a major hit to both their bottom lines and their reputations as a result. With the advent of Industry 4.0, industrial organizations have been investing in connectivity, smart factories, and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) initiatives. Yet the introduction of more endpoints, machines, systems, and devices brings an increased chance for vulnerabilities and puts data at risk without the right tools.

With data security automation, organizations can rely on built-in tools that prioritize data security. Security automation can prevent unauthorized data gathering, access through compromised credentials, and ensure that only the right people have access to specific pools of data. In addition, automation allows essential security tasks to be taken on predetermined schedules without adding to IT teams’ already busy workloads. Examples of security automations can include: 

  • Automatically downloading the latest version of an application and ensuring that the latest security patches are installed at regular intervals
  • Policy-based network monitoring to identify anomalous behavior and isolate threats before they impact the network or production
  • User management solutions that provide strict data access protocols based on specific user roles
  • Encryption or other techniques to help add a layer of security to data, whether it is in flight or at rest
  • Isolating compromised credentials that are behaving strangely to prevent a hacker from gaining access to a company’s most important information

Data security automation also reduces the chances of misconfiguration by providing best practices and blueprints for deployment, reducing the chances of a security breach.

Why is security automation important?

Today’s IT teams are being asked to do more with less. Organizations are deploying more end points and solutions that need monitoring, security measures, and remediation than ever before, yet IT departments struggle to make it all happen with the limited funds and time available to them. All too often, relying on your workforce to oversee cybersecurity management leads to critical issues. It’s difficult to spot an attack until it’s underway and already endangering data and production schedules. Automated tools and monitoring make it possible to provide 24/7 detailed monitoring that can look for patterns that something is awry.

Cyberattacks happen every 39 seconds

According to TechJury, a new cyberattack happens every 39 seconds. As organizations face that velocity of security incidents, automation gives them a reasonable opportunity to detect and respond to threats before they arise. In an industrial automation setting, there may be hundreds or thousands of machines, pieces of equipment, and sensors. Monitoring each of them, as well as the behaviors of the devices and the individuals accessing them, takes an extraordinary amount of effort and simply isn’t feasible for most organizations.

The average ransomware attack costs $4.5 million

Investing in security automation may seem like a lower priority compared to the wide range of demands IT budgets face today. However, with more devices at risk, the reality is that many organizations can’t afford not to automate security. Consider the risks of ransomware: In 2022, remediating a ransomware attack can cost upwards of $4.5 million per attack, according to UpGuard.

Overcoming the cybersecurity talent shortage

Security Magazine recently reported that there are over 700,000 open cybersecurity jobs in the United States and the shortage of these workers is worse than it ever has been. As a result, the average company may not be able to attract and retain qualified cybersecurity talent. Security automation makes it possible for organizations to streamline more of the day-to-day maintenance of their industrial automation technologies and rely on more expert talent only when emergencies or complex use cases arise.

How Kepware supports cybersecurity automation

At PTC, we realize the data we access is vital to businesses’ success, and we do not take the importance of security lightly. Our Security Policies Plug-In for Kepware Server allows administrators to assign security permissions based on the role of the data client or configuration user.

When used in conjunction with the server’s User Manager, the Security Policies Plug-In allows Kepware administrators to set the access permissions on individual objects like channels, devices, and tags for the purpose of roles-based project configuration as well as roles-based data access—improving security without increasing complexity. Kepware Users and User Groups can be custom-created or added from Microsoft Active Directory. Requiring users to log in using a username and password allows you to regulate who gets what level of access to your application, and providing access controls for data clients helps administrators prevent unauthorized access to industrial equipment and message streams.

With the industry trending toward more security-focused products and standards (OPC UA, for example), Kepware has added the Security Policies Plug-in and User Manager as an additional layer of protection to help keep your processes safe and prevent downtime.


As organizations embrace industrial automation and connectivity, the importance of cybersecurity is rising to the forefront. The risk of the stress and expense of managing a breach simply isn’t worth it. Investing in cybersecurity automation solutions can help ensure that you’re protected against the threats that can arise. Knowing that you have a cutting-edge security solution in place can be essential for expanding your automation infrastructure with confidence. 


To learn more about best-of-breed, single-source connectivity solutions, contact an industrial connectivity expert today.

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Tags: Connected Devices Industrial Connectivity Industry 4.0 Kepware

About the Author

Sam Elsner Sam Elsner leads and manages PTC’s Kepware Solutions Consultants, a global team of industrial connectivity experts who help users create connectivity solutions for industrial data acquisition, industrial automation and enterprise digital transformation. Sam has spent twenty years working in IT, OT and business development, and has deep domain expertise in Kepware products, industrial networking and systems integration. Sam holds a BA and a Minor from the University of Maine.