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.
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.
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.
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.
I agree, Ann, connectivity has changed everything in the plant. The control engineers were dragged into this kicking and screaming. Now they have vendors who are monitoring, even running, various aspects of plant operations, from maintenance to diagnostics to optimization.
Ann, Stuxnet got into Iran's nuclear program even though there was an air gap.
Flash drives are potentially more dangerous than having a plant connected to the internet. A simple way to social-engineer access into a factory is to load a virus payload onto several high capacity flash drive and scatter them on the ground in the target's parking lot.
Very few people would resist picking it up thinking it was their lucky day. If they're scattered in the early morning, then the loaded drive goes into the building, where it gets slotted into a work computer to see what's there.
Some companies have policies against flash drives, and some of them even institute Group Policies (through their network) to prevent USB ports from being used for mass storage, but they are the very small exception.
I guess we should be just as surprised about the importance of Factory Floor Network Security as we were surprised by the importance of Y2K. We all knew it was a problem, but there was little concerted push to fix it until we scrambled to avert a catastrophe.
I'm not a huge fan of government regulations, but I can support the need for regulations concerning cybersecurity. In addition to clamping down on access from outside networks, I would hope that simple security measures such as multi-parameter identity verification and multi-user moderation would be a strong first step. Hollywood currently depicts cybersecurity breaches as easy as stealing a photo ID key card from an unsuspecting employee.
Requiring multi-parameter login identity verification and then requiring all program modifications and confidential data accesses to be approved by a moderator would stop both an unknown intruder and a lone disgruntled employee from being able to log in, access confidential data, and starting the self-destruct sequence...
TJ, good point about flash drives, although security experts generally say that internet connections are at least as dangerous. Another big point of entry has been handheld devices, although those have become a lot more secure.
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