No room for complacency on cyber security

With the recent hack attack on Epsilon and the LisaMoon virus, next week there may be another assault. News stories on computer security breaches all merge together and are forgotten nearly as quickly as they garner headlines.

But those in the manufacturing world should have paid a bit more attention to last year’s Stuxnet virus, which was targeted at industrial environments. Stuxnet has largely been neutralized for those who routinely install patches and software updates.

But its impact will stretch further. Security specialists say that it was written in different fashion than most attacks, with a much higher degree of professionalism.

When pros start focusing on automation equipment, manufacturing companies should pay heed. If so, it would be a marked change from today’s complacency. One security expert I talked with said he’d found hundreds of open nodes in minutes using a popular search engine.

The possibility that someone could disrupt a production line is chilling. It could be done for competitive reasons, maybe by a competitor in a foreign country. Attackers might try to extort money after showing that they could take control of a line.

The bright side is that these security specialists say that it’s fairly straightforward to protect a plant. Firewalls, isolated networks and passwords are not difficult to implement. Standards like ISA99 provide lots of information. Cyber security may not be recognized as a major factor in many risk analysis programs. But it’s definitely one that should be considered.

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