Keeping your factory secure

As manufacturers expand their automated technologies, more and more of them will be “connected,” taking advantage of wireless and bluetooth technologies. While this brings manufacturing well into the 21st century, it does bring the question of cyber security onto the manufacturing floor.

Potential vulnerabilities exist everywhere, from printers and HVAC systems to unused ports in automation control systems. The effect of an intrusion can range from an annoyance to theft of intellectual property to a system shutdown.

There are numerous steps that can be taken to make sure that a connected factory is kept secure, but C. Kenna Amos points out three major areas to pay attention to when thinking about cyber security on the factory floor:

Layers of Protection

A “defense-in-depth” approach uses multiple layers of defense—physical, procedural and electronic—at different system levels. That policy-and-procedures scheme helps protect networked assets such as data and end points, while multi-layered physical security helps protect high-value assets, explains Wilcox, Rockwell Automation business development manager.

Successful Segmentation

Firewalls provide the most basic protection from external threats—and are not optional if your company has an Internet connection. “The firewall is the nightclub bouncer,” says Moxa field applications engineer Nick Sandoval. To bounce undesirables, it looks at Internet protocol (IP) and media access control (MAC) addresses and demands authentication before a message may pass.

Firewalls for individual devices are not generally being done, Toepper says. But if a company wants to protect against internal intellectual-property thieves, he suggests putting in front of each critical device a firewall that’s capable of deep-pocket inspection.

Inside Threats

Perhaps 80 percent of cyber incidents that cause downtime come from insiders, estimates Phoenix Contact’s Austin—and 75-80 percent of those incidents are non-malicious. For example, a bad network card floods the network with a broadcast storm. Or an IT department does a ping sweep to check IP addresses. Austin says a Big Three automaker client had a laboratory network shut down because of such a sweep, because the lab and IT network were connected.

And while Toepper agrees that accidental hacking isn’t malicious, he thinks it’s still best practice to use simple subnet segmentation using routers to prevent it.

As with any new technology, staying aware of the potential problems and taking a proactive stance toward them can keep you from falling victim. To read more about how to stay ahead of cyber security threats, head read the article at Automation World.

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