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Is Your Network Safe?

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Rob Spiegel
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Re: Is the network safe???
Rob Spiegel   11/16/2012 1:38:56 PM
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William K., you illustrated very well the vulnerability of plant networks. You can see why this drives the IT folks crazy.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: It's always daylight in someone's time zone
Ann R. Thryft   11/16/2012 11:50:53 AM
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I see what you mean. But Ethernet has been invading the factory since the late 80s, and began to infiltrate the back end--the plant floor--around that time in some industries, even if it was only cobbled together custom attempts at interfacing the control system with early IT networks. So the conflicts began over 20 years ago.

William K.
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Is the network safe???
William K.   11/15/2012 10:28:25 PM
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One very simple and inexpensive way to hack a companie's network has been described to me, and it would work in a lot of places, particularly those where the system hub is in a closet, not a server room. All a visitor would need is a cheap wireless router and a eternet cable. Plug the cable into the system hub and then into the router, plug in the router, and place it above the dropped ceiling of the closet. The company network could then be accessed by anyone with the router password, within range. And if the hack were discovered, finding the snooper would not be simple, because of the wireless link.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: It's always daylight in someone's time zone
Rob Spiegel   11/15/2012 8:40:08 PM
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It seems to make sense, Ann. Yet I think the struggle between control engineers and IT folks is fairly recent. For decades, the plant floor was run on networks that were not linked out to the company's back office and supply chain. As for these teams that include control and IT, a lot of that movement seems to have come from vendors as a suggested best practice.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: It's always daylight in someone's time zone
Ann R. Thryft   11/15/2012 4:46:18 PM
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Rob that cooperation is a long time coming, don't you think?

Rob Spiegel
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Re: It's always daylight in someone's time zone
Rob Spiegel   11/15/2012 11:01:06 AM
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Yes, Ann, in successful deployments now, many companies are creating these IT/control teams. Some of this comes through vendor encouragement. Apparently, these teams have been successful at reconciling the needs for 24/7 plant uptime and IT concerns over security.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Is your network safe?
Rob Spiegel   11/14/2012 9:14:57 PM
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Yes it is a good question, Chuck. When plants were silos, safety wasn't a concern. That has really changed in recent years. Plant networks now connect out to ERP systems and supply chain partners. Another thing that has changed is the use of energy. Ten years ago plants didn't care about energy savings. Wow, has that changed.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: It's always daylight in someone's time zone
Ann R. Thryft   11/14/2012 12:38:56 PM
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Rob--a team with both control and IT people? Who talk to each other? What a novel idea! Kidding aside (I think), it's sure taken a long time to bring that about. Glad to hear it.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: It's always daylight in someone's time zone
Rob Spiegel   11/13/2012 10:34:37 PM
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Thanks, Ann. More and more companies are gaining a handle on the tention between IT and control managers. The going solution is to create a team that includes both control and IT folks.

Nancy Golden
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Re: Is your network safe?
Nancy Golden   11/13/2012 7:13:07 PM
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Me too, Charles. In the old days at the semiconductor company I worked at, as a member of test engineering I was also expected to help with keeping everybody's computers up and running. We never thought much about network security beyond the barebones administrator privileges. With the increase in interconnectivity and establishment of IT departments, computer security has become so much more than guarding against a virus attacking your computer - so much so that some companies have gone to the extreme. I have a friend that works for an engineering company and he can't even download datasheets because of the security settings by their IT department. If there is no activity on his keyboard for longer than five minutes it automatically logs him out. It would be nice for companies like that to adapt different strategies where the network is kept secure but the employees can still access the data they need. I am surprised to read that disgruntled employees are feared the most - I would think it would be unethical competitors...but then the disgruntled employees that leave may become the unethical competitors. It always astounds me how much time and energy people devote to such a destructive and dishonest practice as hacking, often with no logical return except for the accomplishment they feel in being able to do it - if they directed their energy to honest productivity they would be so much better off...

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