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Can Your iPhone Bring Down a Plant?
6/28/2013

A layout of the new networked plant.
A layout of the new networked plant.

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TJ McDermott
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3 levels to the plant
TJ McDermott   6/28/2013 10:13:24 AM
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Rob, this is a terrific article; it points out a continuing significant problem.

The better Etherenet arcitectures I've seen have an outer office-type network that is connected to the internet, a middle level used for supervisory control of the plant, and an inner for machine level control.

IT departments will have to become more agile.  Our continuing trend of doing more with fewer people REQUIRES this.

Last week I was in a plant which had a SCADA server stop communicating with plant-floor HMI terminals.  The engineer most knowledgable about the servers was out of the building, but used her smart-phone to remotely reboot it and get the floor functioning again.

Her plant did have very good security yet permitted the flexibility of remote access which permitted rapid response to problems.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: 3 levels to the plant
Rob Spiegel   6/28/2013 10:41:04 AM
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That remote acess sounds great, and it solved a problem in the moment -- but -- if she became a disgruntled employee, the plant would be at her mercy. 

TJ McDermott
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Re: 3 levels to the plant
TJ McDermott   6/28/2013 10:54:39 AM
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Rob, proper security would end her access upon her termination of employment.  But that problem isn't limited to remote access.  A disgruntled IT employee can cause far more damage from within than without.  That is a completely different problem.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: 3 levels to the plant
Rob Spiegel   6/28/2013 11:14:27 AM
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Good point, TJ. But I do remember that when I asked what was the greatest threat to plant security systems, time after time, I heard, "A disgruntled former employee. One threat I heard less frequently -- but seems to me a bigger threat -- is the inadvertent attack from a malware bug that enters the system when an employee loads some music onto a workstation. 

Charles Murray
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Re: 3 levels to the plant
Charles Murray   6/28/2013 6:01:14 PM
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What a great article. This really points out the serious security threats posed by the plant's connection to the ERP system. Recently, we've heard a lot about theft of corporate intellectual property in big companies. But stuffing documents in a brief case will soon be passe. This is much scarier.

notarboca
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Standards
notarboca   6/30/2013 1:38:04 AM
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"This topic has become very heightened. The Obama Administration has gotten involved and they're developing standards"

The last thing the industrial IT community needs is for the government to set standards.  They should do it for themselves.  Rue the day when governments try to tell people how to run their own IT shop.

AnandY
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Web browsers
AnandY   7/1/2013 5:02:58 AM
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Web browsers on smartphones have gotten a lot better, but the web is a major source of malicious code. With a small screen of smartphones, it's more difficult for users to detect that a site is a phishing site. The malware can then be transferred onto the network from the phone.

AnandY
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Security bypass
AnandY   7/1/2013 5:10:26 AM
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Some smart phones OS bypass security mechanisms for user's convinenece. This makes it a lot easier and less frustrating for smart phones to connect to any plant's devices, but it also defeats the purpose of those security measures.

AnandY
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VPN
AnandY   7/1/2013 5:37:45 AM
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Most of the smartphones users connect to public Wi-Fi. If users connect their phones, containing company information, to an unsecured Wi-Fi network then a real security issue is created. If the same smartphone is connected back to the corporate network over a public Wi-Fi network, it could put the entire company network at risk. Users should be required to connect to the company network via an SSL VPN, so that the data traveling between the phone and the company network will be encrypted in transit and can't be read if it's intercepted.

AnandY
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BYOD security policy
AnandY   7/1/2013 5:43:02 AM
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Many corporations that allow employees to use their own mobile devices at work implement a BYOD security policy. BYOD security can be addressed by having IT provide detailed security requirements for each type of personal device that is used in the workplace and connected to the corporate network.

IT may require devices to be configured with passwords, prohibit specific types of applications from being installed on the device or require all data on the device to be encrypted. Other BYOD security policy initiatives may include limiting activities that employees are allowed to perform on these devices at work like email usage is limited to corporate email accounts only.

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