The factory floor used to be unhackable back when all the controller interfaces and comm systems were proprietary and not connected to the Internet, or even to the company's own IT system. Ethernet connectivity has changed everything.
This is an important subject, Rich. Over the past couple years, I've done a number of stories on security and the factory floor. I was curious too about who would want to hack into a plant's control system. The answer I received over and over was a disgruntled employee. This is the one person who has a motive and knows where all the buttons and levers are in the system.
Security is also a battleground between the control staff and the IT staff. IT says, we have to load patches and reboot. Control says, we're not going to shut down the plant to put in a patch.
It's a sad commentary when network security to protect the factory floor ends up becoming such an important task, versus other so much more productive projects. But unfortunately this is the world we live in.
I definitely think organizations' attention is so fixated on security concerns surrounding their traditional information technology (IT) systems, that the factory floor is often overlooked in the equation. Also, production floor automation systems are oftentimes under a different domain and run by a separate entity than the CIO-led IT departments where security and hacking has been a top concern for years. Great to see that this issue is coming front and center. It's just as important to safeguard the lifeblood of a company's operations nerve center as it is to ensure the security of its data assets.
Using wireless chips and accessories, engineers can now extract data from the unlikeliest of places -- pumps, motors, bridges, conveyors, refineries, cooling towers, parking garages, down-hole drills and just about anything else that can benefit from monitoring.
With strong marketplace demand for qualified engineers across the board that currently outstrips the available supply, there may never be a better time for engineers and project managers to advance their careers and salaries. Whether those moves are successful in the short-term and long-term is likely to depend on how the transition from one job to the next is handled.
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