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.
If the company has to ask, is the network safe, it probably isn't. The only way to keep it safe is to remove outside connectivity in any way. But that doesn't stop the disgruntled internal ne're-do-well. All a company can do is stay current and respond to industry warnings. If in the process something else fails... what can be done? Isolation is the key.
There has never been a case of medical implant hacking, but it became a major panic for the med sector recently. Now they scramble to find solutions. Companies pop up to handle the phantom threat. In this case, is it really a concern? Or is it a case of better safe than sorry?
Thanks, Rob, a clear summary of the tensions between IT and the factory floor on this subject. Not only does connectivity and these conflicts affect a local network because of 24/7 use, it also affects everyone around the world in different time zones. Many times I'm accessing a website to make a purchase or to find out financial account data, and because it's on a Sunday or after 5 PM in someone else's time zone, I get an error message saying they're doing a security update or other maintenance.
Truchard will be presented the award at the 2014 Golden Mousetrap Awards ceremony during the co-located events Pacific Design & Manufacturing, MD&M West, WestPack, PLASTEC West, Electronics West, ATX West, and AeroCon.
Robots that walk have come a long way from simple barebones walking machines or pairs of legs without an upper body and head. Much of the research these days focuses on making more humanoid robots. But they are not all created equal.
The IEEE Computer Society has named the top 10 trends for 2014. You can expect the convergence of cloud computing and mobile devices, advances in health care data and devices, as well as privacy issues in social media to make the headlines. And 3D printing came out of nowhere to make a big splash.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.