How safe is your network?
Just a few years ago, plants didn't have to worry about the safety of their networks. From an IT point of view, plants were silos -- succinct and secure. That changed over the past decade. To improve efficiency, plants connected out to the company's back office and beyond to suppliers and customers.
The increased connectivity gives the business office insight into what the plant is producing, what orders are complete, and what new supplies need to be ordered. The network can alert customers that a shipment is on the way. It can also alert suppliers that a new shipment is needed. Most of the connectivity runs along Internet connections.
This extended network prompted a battle between the organization's IT team and the control folks on the factory floor. IT is accustomed to adding patches late at night, when the office employees are gone. A quick reboot, and everything is fine when the office employees show up the next morning. With plant networks, that's not so easy. If a plant is running 24/7, you can't add patches and reboot without shutting down the plant.
In addition, the plant is now vulnerable to hacking. When automation and control managers discuss this challenge, the vulnerability that most worries plant employees is not terrorists, hackers, or competitors -- it's disgruntled employees. Who else would know how to crack the system, push the right buttons, and pull the right levers to disrupt the network?
Design News will present a radio show on this topic on Thursday, Dec. 6, at 12:00 p.m. EST. It's free and open to all. You can sign up for the program, "Network Security: Don't Get Hacked," by clicking here. The presenter is Eric J. Byres, CTO and vice president of engineering of Tofino Security, one of the leading experts on network security. During the half-hour presentation (followed by a half-hour of online chat), Eric will discuss the challenges and solutions for securing your network.