As part of Accenture’s Technology Vision 2021, the “Mirrored World” trend highlights how intelligent digital twins can unlock enterprise value.

AI technology can make these digital models of physical objects, systems or processes “intelligent.” That allows businesses to explore “what if” scenarios or make predictions based on real-time data.

One application can help protect industrial facilities from cyberattacks. Working with OTORIO, an expert in operational technology (OT) cybersecurity, we’ve proved its value.

Using Accenture’s cyber digital twin platform (CyTwin) and real-world manufacturing data, we predicted cyber risks for key industrial processes – and recommended the best way to mitigate them.

Fast-expanding attack surfaces

Security has always been critical for industrial manufacturing. But now, thanks to IoT, 5G and smart manufacturing, risks have risen.

Self-contained OT networks were relatively easy to protect. That’s because they were separated from a company’s infrastructure. But now they’re connected to the business’s network as well as the open internet.

The impact? A much wider range of new cyber-attack surfaces. So although connectivity has transformed modern factory floors, it’s also making them more vulnerable.

Up to now, businesses have approached this challenge in two ways. First, using systems to discover and mitigate active cyber threats. And second, through periodic risk assessments using multiple data sources like questionnaires and threat intelligence tools.

The problem? These approaches make it hard to keep up in such a fast-changing threat landscape. They also rely on expensive – and scarce – expertise. And they can’t prioritize risks according to business impact.

Intelligent cyber digital twins

We used a unique approach to overcome these challenges with a real-time, evidence-based way to predict cyber-risk. Using data from a pulp and paper mill, we automatically identify risks to the plant’s key processes and prioritize which to address first. 

The graphic below shows how we did this. We linked risk per process, on the left, to the most critical business assets, on the right. Of course, every organization has its own risk parameters. Our approach can accommodate these, whatever they are, predicting risks to specific processes and recommending actions.

Taking a closer look

So why are intelligent cyber digital twins so powerful here? Crucially, they allow us to simulate risks in a virtual environment that precisely mirrors their real-world business impacts (see graphic below). There are three key elements:

  • Process-aware attack graphs
    These show how an attacker is most likely to move from entry point to target. We can look at this asset-by-asset. Then, unlike most attack graphs (which can’t do this), we can drill into underlying processes. At every step, we can highlight how skilled an attacker needs to be to move forward and analyze the harm they could do.
  • Process-aware risk assessment
    We combine these insights with in-depth knowledge of an industrial plant’s processes. Then we predict how damaging an attack will be at every level – from individual processes to operational performance.
  • Process-aware risk mitigation
    Once we know which risks to target first, we can identify process vulnerabilities. Then we can take steps to address them. Overall, this empowers the business to reduce risks to an acceptable level across all key processes.

A virtual solution for real business threats

A connected world increases the risk of cyberattacks on industrial processes. Unchecked, these could have catastrophic results. Companies need to know which processes are most vulnerable and what the impacts of an attack would be. Intelligent cyber digital twins take the fight to the attackers. And that keeps industrial businesses one step ahead.  

Stay tuned for more news on innovative digital twin applications in the coming months. Meanwhile, for more information about CyTwin, please contact or or visit:

Dan Klein

Cyber Innovation R&D Lead – Accenture Labs

Gal Engelberg

Researcher – Accenture Labs

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