Companies that are well-known often make headlines when there is a security breach. This is especially true when customers are directly affected by the breach and here comes the role of Cyber Security in Industrial Automation. Attacks on industrial companies, on the other hand, seem less likely to get people’s attention. But this doesn’t mean that the risk to manufacturing isn’t real or growing.
Last year, a ransomware attack on one of the largest aluminum companies in the world caused damage worth tens of millions of dollars. And that’s only one company. Attacks like this are happening more and more often. According to research done by Forrester and Tenable, 94% of executives say that their companies have been attacked or compromised in a way that hurts their business in the last 12 months. A data breach costs a company an average of $3.86M.
It’s also not just about money. Cyber Security in Industrial Automation is becoming an increasingly important issue in process automation. There are a lot of machines that could be dangerous in factories and plants. If you give up control of your equipment and processes, your production could be stopped, but someone could also get hurt or worse.
We know that some of the biggest threats to businesses are phishing attacks and malware. But there is also a very real chance of getting hurt in an industrial setting. In the end, the most important part of safety in manufacturing is not having accidents or putting people’s lives at risk. To do this, leaders in the industry must take every physical step possible.
Here is what’s the role of Cyber Security in Industrial Automation:
Identifying hidden risks
Once upon a time, there was a clear line between information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) systems in most industrial settings. Most of the time, these environments were run by different groups.
In modern manufacturing, the coming together of these two worlds has required a whole new way of doing things, Cyber Security in Industrial Automation to make sure everything runs smoothly and to protect against a new way for hackers to get in.
The controllers used in industrial processes are a good target for people who want to mess up manufacturing operations. Think about some of the things that happen over and over in an industry like oil and gas. They can’t just be turned off by flipping a switch. But hackers could slowly shut things down by lowering pressure through valves or pipes so no one would notice. The famous Stuxnet virus did the same thing. No one saw the failure coming because the nuclear centrifuges were run at speeds above what was safe at a steady rate that was hard to notice. Not even the systems that run the machines.
It’s just one of many attacks that have happened in the past few years. In fact, it usually takes about six months for a company to find out about a data breach. So, cyber attackers who take control of your processes, whether they try to slow down production in secret or ask for money directly through ransomware, are also in charge of the safety of your employees.
Even though this is a risk that manufacturing leaders should be aware of, it doesn’t mean that you should try to keep all OT systems separate. As with any risk, the goal is to lessen it rather than get rid of it completely.
Finding a good middle ground
With the right steps in place, there’s no reason to give up the benefits of connected industrial processes and risk falling far behind your competitors.
Having a connected environment is good for your business, and it can be used safely and effectively with the right security measures through Cyber Security in Industrial Automation. Think about a motor for a pump system in a refinery in the middle of the desert, for example. You could keep it offline and not connected to reduce the chance of outside interference and send an engineer hundreds of miles away every time you want to check the equipment.
But if there wasn’t a connected, algorithmic system that sent information right away, faults or problems could go on for longer. And cause breakdowns or even more serious problems, depending on how unstable the materials used in the industrial process are. In a situation like the one with Stuxnet, which was already mentioned, disconnecting the systems from the Internet wouldn’t have stopped the damage. It spread through infected USB flash drives by going after people inside the facility who had access to internal resources.
What are the best ways to keep information safe?
A problem with many parts needs a solution with many parts, too. Part of the solution is to make sure hardware and software are secure but don’t forget about the role of people. You need to know how to build your network the right way, have the skills to keep it safe and be willing to keep an eye on it for a long time.
At Rockwell Automation, this is the kind of advice and implementation that we do best when it comes to Cyber Security in Industrial Automation. Working with our customers, we try to get a clear picture of how the environment has been managed in the past, what new risks may have arisen or could arise in the future, and how to create a security model that can be used consistently and indefinitely. This could mean:
OT network assessment can help you figure out how dangerous you are.
Designing your OT network to meet best practices in the industry
Setting up a secure architecture for remote access to your OT network
By keeping an eye on your operations, you can find threats and oddities in real-time.
Having a backup plan to stop and get back on your feet after a Day 0 cyber-attack.
Cyberattacks are a real danger for all manufacturing facilities. The cost could be a stop in production, a loss of money, or even a risk to your safety and the safety of your people.
Faced with these risks, it’s easy to think that the best way to stop these criminals from getting in is to stop digital transformation and connectivity. But this change also makes your business more competitive and makes it more productive. There is no way to turn them off. Instead, the answer is a multi-layered approach to Cyber Security in Industrial Automation that combines the physical and the digital and takes your people into account.
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