Security concerns come to the plant floor

One of the biggest changes in industrial networking during this decade has been Ethernet’s move onto the factory floor. Using the ubiquitous office network to link factory floor equipment streamlines communications between offices and factories, improving efficiency.
That’s the good news. The downside is that network security now has become an aspect of industrial network management. Many of the attacks and viruses that plague IT managers can bleed over to industrial networks.
While it’s not a big deal if an e-mail server shuts down briefly due to a virus or an anti-virus update, even a short stoppage can cause major headaches on the plant floor. Even more ominous are the growing number of attacks focused on the industrial world.
Byres Security, one of a growing number of companies providing protection products and services, keeps a running log of security breaches. Though most of the publicly-acknowledged attacks don’t focus on factories, security companies say that a growing number of factories are being shaken down by hackers.
These professional hackers show that they’ve got control of a plant, then ask for cash. This type of extortion isn’t large. But programs that target industrial applications are posted on line, creating potential for more nefarious attacks.
Firewalls and network monitoring are a couple of the basic tools that can help protect plant managers. Most executives understand the need for industrial security, but trend watchers say that a lot of companies have been slow to take action.
Network security is like traditional physical security and insurance, you might be able to get along without it for a while. But that’s a dangerous game, especially in a field where attackers can come from anywhere on earth.

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