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Digital Twins: Power, Potential, and the Imperative of Cybersecurity

Digital Twins are unique in their ability to offer instantaneous data feedback between a twin and its physical counterpart. Digital Twins work on a feedback loop whereby they receive data from the real world for informed decision-making and transmit data to a real-world counterpart to change its behavior.

A key characteristic of digital twins is this two-way flow of data, which is necessary for its definition. Often confused with digital replicas, which are digital copies of a physical entity with no data function critical to a functioning digital twin, digital twins can, through data, autonomously, without human input, change the functioning state of the real world.

As a result, digital twins are powerful tools that shape how we interact with the real world digitally. As Edmund Burke famously said, the greater the power, the greater the abuse. Power can be abused, and the same goes for the operation of digital twins in the wrong hands, such as cyber attackers and hackers. Digital twins can influence entire supply chains, value chains, and processes in the real world, such as the functioning of multiple factories at once. Organizations like BMW are building factories using digital twins to control them through software autonomously. Thus, digital twins naturally present a cybersecurity threat to the largest companies on earth if attacked.

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According to De Montfort University, digital twins give cyberattackers the ability to understand how physical entities are vulnerable, showcasing weaknesses and potentially misleading operators. On the flip side, the study showed that digital twins have the potential to increase security measures due to operators being able to simulate potential what-if scenarios of cyber attacks and adequately protect the system from damage. Nevertheless, digital twins need to be sufficiently protected from cyber attackers to ensure these digital systems are not tampered with, which may override potential what-if scenarios from taking charge.

Platform providers such as NVIDIA, with their Omniverse platform, offer world-class security management for their customers who are developing digital twins. However, even these large conglomerates must stay vigilant against hackers using more proficient tools and methods to hack digital systems. With digital twins becoming more widespread and powerful in their application and influence, they will become more valuable cyberattack targets.

Likewise, for smaller providers and customers developing digital twins, the threat of cybersecurity is just as prominent, with adequate measures needing to be put in place to stop attacks. 

If you found this article to be informative, you can explore more current Digital Twin news here exclusives, interviews, and podcasts.

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Jack Boreham

Jack Boreham is the editorial director and account executive at the Digital Twin Insider: the leading digital twin publication globally. Jack has been at the forefront of the platform's growth as a digital twin specialist - writing and advising projects in the Digital Twin space for over two years. [email protected]

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The Future of Materials Discovery: Reducing R&D Costs significantly with GenMat’s AI and Machine Learning Tools

When: July 13, 2023 at 11:30am

What: GenMat Webinar

Picture of Jake Vikoren

Jake Vikoren

Company Speaker

Picture of Deep Prasad

Deep Prasad

Company Speaker

Picture of Araceli Venegas

Araceli Venegas

Company Speaker

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