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IEC 62443 4-2: Technical Security Requirements for IACS Components

Industrial Control Systems (ICS)

Cybercriminals have turned their sights on critical industries, targeting the energy sector and manufacturing. Expert research has shown that the energy grid, in particular, is susceptible to various forms of cyber attacks, suffering from aging infrastructure, complex operations, and a growing intersection between operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT). 

The manufacturing sector carries a similar risk, experiencing almost 25% of all cyberattacks against major industries. Attacks against manufacturing can lead to significant disruptions in production lines, compromise sensitive data, and result in substantial financial losses.

Energy and manufacturing operations rely on interconnected and automated systems, which make them particularly vulnerable to cyber threats that can ripple across the supply chain, affecting not just the targeted company but also its partners and customers.

As the threat landscape expands, organizations that rely on industrial automation and control systems (IACS) need guidance on how to protect themselves. The IEC 62443 series of standards was specifically designed for security leaders charged with protecting automated components in industrial environments. 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at IEC 62443-4-2, Technical Security Requirements for IACS Components.

What is IEC 62443-4-2?

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) publishes standards for virtually all things electrical and electronic, including the devices and systems that support industrial operations. 

The 62443 standard series provides guidance for securing IACS. Each part of the series addresses a specific aspect of IACS security.

  • Part 1 focuses on the overall cybersecurity concepts and methodologies for IACS. It outlines the foundational security requirements and risk management processes.
  • Part 2 addresses system security requirements for IACS. This includes physical security, technical security measures for communication networks, and secure system integration.
  • Part 3 covers operational security for IACS. This part details procedures and practices for secure operation, including user management, incident response, and vulnerability management.
  • Part 4 performs a deep-dive into component security requirements, offering granular and prescriptive guidance for security leaders. IEC 62443-4-2 focuses on the technical security requirements for individual IACS components, including embedded devices, network components, software applications, and host devices.

Why does IEC 62443-4-2 matter?

The rising frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks targetting essential infrastructure, including power grids, manufacturing plants, and water treatment facilities, underscores the need for IEC 62443-4-2. Critical infrastructure worldwide saw attacks approximately every 13 seconds in 2023. With IEC 62443-4-2, the security leaders have a framework to guide their efforts and defend against looming threats. 

IEC 62443-4-2 significantly impacts product development and lifecycles by guiding the management of IACS components throughout their entire lifecycle. This includes critical aspects like software updates, patch management, and end-of-life processes. To ensure continuous cybersecurity, the standard mandates a security lifecycle incorporating regular security audits and risk assessments.

IEC 62443-4-2 plays a vital role in ensuring legal and regulatory compliance across various critical sectors. Here’s how it benefits these sectors:

  • Energy and Utilities: Safeguards control systems, preventing outages and ensuring a continuous supply of power.
  • Water and Wastewater Management:  Secures the safety and reliability of treatment and distribution systems.
  • Manufacturing: Protects automation processes, especially in critical industries like automotive and pharmaceuticals.
  • Oil and Gas:  Bolsters operational technology security.
  • Transportation (Rail and Air):  Enhances control system safety and efficiency.
  • Healthcare: Secures medical device manufacturing and healthcare infrastructure.


Furthermore, IEC 62443-4-2 facilitates the secure integration of emerging technologies like IoT and AI into industrial automation systems. This is crucial for safeguarding critical infrastructure in healthcare, transportation, and water management.

Beyond compliance, adopting this standard enhances product marketability by building consumer trust and establishing a competitive advantage. As cybersecurity awareness grows, compliance demonstrates a proactive security posture, which is essential for sectors prioritizing reliability and safety. 

What does IEC 62443-4-2 require?

IEC 62443-4-2 establishes a comprehensive security framework for industrial automation and control systems (IACS). It mandates a broad range of controls across various domains, encompassing the entire lifecycle of IACS components and operations.

  • Secure Development Lifecycle:  The standard emphasizes secure development from the outset.  By integrating security throughout product development stages, a Secure Development Lifecycle (SDL) is established. Rigorous security testing and validation at various stages ensure that security controls are functional and the product’s integrity is reinforced from conception to deployment.
  • Patch Management:  Regular security updates are mandated through an efficient patch management process, enabling organizations to swiftly address critical software vulnerabilities.
  • Operational Security:
    • Access Control & Authentication: IEC 62443-4-2 strongly emphasizes robust authentication and authorization mechanisms. This ensures that only verified and authorized users have access to IACS components, adhering to the principle of least privilege where access is granted only as necessary for users’ tasks.
    • Physical Security:  Unlike many other cybersecurity regulations, IEC 62443-4-2 integrates physical security measures to prevent unauthorized physical access and guard against attacks targeting air-gapped systems.
  • Data Protection:
    • Encryption:  Data protection provisions focus on encryption to safeguard data confidentiality and integrity. This ensures sensitive information remains secure from unauthorized access or interception.
    • System Integrity:  Controls are implemented to maintain system integrity, protecting against unauthorized changes and malware. This may involve robust antivirus (AV) for malware detection or endpoint detection and response (EDR) to identify and alert administrators to unauthorized changes.
  • Resilience & Incident Management:
    • System Resilience:  System components are designed to be resilient against cyberattacks, ensuring they can maintain secure operations even under threat.
    • Incident Detection & Response:  Robust incident detection and response capabilities are required to quickly identify security incidents and implement effective strategies to mitigate any potential damage or disruption.
  • Operational Excellence:
    • Configuration Management: Stringent configuration management controls ensure that any changes to IACS components are intentional and traceable, minimizing the risk of unintended security vulnerabilities.
    • Documentation & Training:  Comprehensive security documentation and training equip those responsible for IACS with the knowledge and tools required to maintain secure configurations and manage operations effectively.


By implementing these comprehensive security controls, IEC 62443-4-2 empowers organizations to build robust and resilient IACS environments.

Challenges in meeting IEC 62443-4-2

Implementing IEC 62443-4-2 presents a significant technical challenge, especially for organizations lacking extensive cybersecurity expertise. This complexity arises from the need to integrate advanced security features like encryption, authentication, and resilience into existing systems.

Achieving IEC 62443-4-2 compliance presents significant resource challenges, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Compliance demands require investments in time, expertise, and finances.

  • Resource Constraints for SMEs: Allocating sufficient resources can be particularly difficult for SMEs. Hiring additional cybersecurity staff might be cost-prohibitive in the long run, while even contractor or consultant fees can strain budgets. 
  • Legacy Systems:  Integrating security features into legacy systems not designed with modern cybersecurity threats in mind poses technical difficulties and financial burdens due to upgrades or retrofits required to meet IEC 62443-4-2 standards.
  • Workforce Expertise:  The limited pool of cybersecurity professionals creates a significant talent gap. Estimates suggest the current workforce can only address 74% of cybersecurity needs, with an even larger gap in specialized IACS expertise.


Training current staff to understand and implement IEC 62443-4-2 principles can bridge this gap but requires a substantial investment. However, this strategy may not always be feasible, as employees might lack the foundational skills needed to effectively utilize this specialized knowledge.

Strategies for meeting IEC 62443-4-2 compliance

Without a clear roadmap, achieving IEC 62443-4-2 compliance can be daunting. However, implementing these strategic solutions can streamline the process:

  • Secure Development Lifecycle (SDL):  Develop and implement a robust SDL for IACS components. This integrates cybersecurity considerations throughout the development process, from design and testing to validation and maintenance. The resulting components benefit from strong security measures embedded from the very beginning.
  • Building Expertise: Assemble a knowledgeable team or collaborate with a trusted vendor experienced in IEC 62443-4-2. Ongoing training in cybersecurity best practices is essential, with a focus on implementing and managing secure access controls within these standards. Trusted partners can provide valuable expertise, particularly in areas where in-house development might be impractical or costly.
  • Operational Security:  Robust access control and incident management are critical for operational compliance. Strong authentication and authorization mechanisms are essential, leveraging encryption to safeguard against unauthorized access.  Developing a comprehensive incident response plan ensures a swift response to security breaches, minimizing damage and service disruptions.
  • Proactive Security Posture:  Maintain a proactive approach to security by implementing regular system updates, patch management, and thorough risk assessments. This helps address vulnerabilities and adapt to evolving threats. Integrating PKI certificate management into your risk management strategy is crucial. Regularly updated and renewed certificates ensure the integrity and confidentiality of communication within the IACS environment.
  • Collaboration & Supply Chain Security: Collaborate closely with suppliers and partners to ensure a compliant digital supply chain. Regular security audits are a vital practice to uphold these standards consistently. This collaboration should involve adhering to PKI standards and conducting audits to confirm PKI implementation across the supply chain.  This ensures that all code and libraries originate from trusted sources and have not been tampered with during transit, maintaining the overall security and integrity of the system.


By implementing these strategies, organizations can navigate the path toward achieving IEC 62443-4-2 compliance and significantly enhance their IACS security posture.

Embracing IEC 62443-4-2

Incorporating PKI within the framework of IEC 62443-4-2 is essential for solidifying security in IACS. Integrating PKI establishes a foundational layer of protection, enhancing key processes like authentication, encryption, and digital signatures. This integration is vital across various security levels and implementation stages, ensuring a structurally sound security program within the IACS environment.

Automating PKI within IACS environments is vital to streamlining security management. This automation simplifies certificate issuance, renewal, and revocation, bolstering security measures while significantly reducing administrative efforts. Such streamlining supports organizations in maintaining robust and efficient IACS operations.

Ready to learn how PKI automation can improve your IACS operations with IEC 62443-4-2? Get in touch — our team is ready to help.