Yes, it is exposed, which makes IT nervous, especially when control resists the usual overnight patches and reboots. The plant never sleeps, so you can't just reboot.
Interestingly, the perceived threat is not from malicious anonymous hacker or terrorists. What really scares them is former disgruntled employees. Those are the folks who know where all the digital levers are.
Interesting about the disgruntled ex-employees. I would have guessed more on the order of industrial espionage and competitors looking for info on trade secrets. OTOH, some work I did a few years back in security showed that the biggest leaks and potential leaks were not disgruntled current employees with either improperly secured mobile devices, or those where employees turned off security because it gets in the way of operating the machines. Those mobile devices then get lost or mislaid and presto! The company has a security crisis on its hands.
Turning off security because it gets in the way of operating the machines! That's a good one. I've seen that with safety as well, I've seen employees and managers bypass or circumvent safety in order to speed up the line.
Part of what's fueling the security issue is the whole trend around the consumerization of IT. More and more employees, including plant managers and operators, are bringing their own smart phones to work and want to use those devices as part of their work tasks as opposed to maintaining two devices. That makes it hard for IT or the controls group to uphold proper security standards. Also, as Ann notes, the device can get lost or the kids can log on to download some Apps and presto, you have a breach or potential security problem on your hands.
Yes, I've heard that personal smartphones have entered the workplace big-time, and it's causing problems for IT departments. But it's understandable. Employees are accustomed to their Androids and iPhones, and by comparison, their work BlackBerrys are not as advanced.
I hadn't heard that about safety, Rob, but unfortunately, it makes sense. Sounds like the same principle operating in both cases, of security and safety procedures. At least in the case of security, both employee training and more robust safeguards in mobile equipment were required.
Rob - One possible solution to that particular problem is creating a one-way or read-only link. The data can be sent out to the IT systems, but nothing can come in that way. Yes, that adds a layer of complexity regarding updates, but it also makes sure that both the IT and Controls people sign off on the update schedules and implementations.
That sounds like a good solution, Jack -- much more like the former process of sending reports. The real-time network, however, could send the data on a near-continuous stream. Not quite the same as letting other areas of the enterprise peek into the process to ascertain performance and results, but it would solve some of the security issues.
The gets into the whole remote monitoring issue -- the fact that improved data links throughout the factory are enabling sensors to send data back to a central monitoring station. This, in turn, is enabling both tighter control of processes and also a reduction in outages, because failure points can be fixed right away.
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