With the introduction of industrial control systems, companies have access to digital tools that allow them to achieve greater levels of efficiency, reliability and control. Operators now have a unique insight into their processes and have access to more data than ever before.
With this increased connectivity comes the reality that cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure and other process industries are becoming more common, and more sophisticated. According to Price Waterhouse Coopers, in 2014 there were 117,339 incoming attacks a day.
“It is really a cat and mouse game,” says Gordon Gillespie, Industrial Networking Specialist at Spartan Controls. “The better your organization protects itself, the better cyber criminals get at breaking in.”
Organizations in critical industries such as oil and gas, electrical generation, and water systems need to be prepared and protected from a number of threats according to Gillespie, which include:
- Reliability: typically these threats are not malicious, and can simply be an upset that is caused by human error internally. Although these are unintentional, a real risk still exists to the proper operation of a facility.
- Automated attacks: existing in forms such as Malware and Trojans, this type of threat is a hostile or intrusive software that is used to disrupt operations or to gather confidential information.
- Directed/targeted attacks: occur when a specific organization or company is directly targeted by a criminal cyber-attack.
“Production information, storage capability, intellectual property, and asset data are examples of the types of information that cyber criminals are trying to get their hands on,” says Gillespie. “Organizations that have their systems compromised are looking at downtime, production losses or loss of commercial advantages, which is why it is so important for companies to ensure they are doing everything they can to be protected.”
Security systems and firewalls are essential from the edge of the business down to the process control networks, says Gillespie. Operators must feel confident that the data that is being transferred between the process and the business is secure and safe.
The global cybersecurity market is set to be worth $170 billion by 2020 as companies invest in technology to protect their assets. Spartan’s Advanced Solutions group has dedicated specialists that act as trusted advisor to clients for industrial networking, wireless and cybersecurity solutions. They work to deliver safe, secure industrial control system networks built on a foundation of technology, knowledge and expertise. Contact us for more information.
Gordon Gillespie is a senior network designer and cybersecurity specialist at Spartan Controls. He provides communication, security, automation, and interface services in industrial control system WAN, LAN and critical infrastructure environments. Gordon has over 20 years of experience with Spartan (and previously Norpac Controls and Artemis Networks) during which he has designed, implemented, and optimized secure, robust, highly-available industrial network systems at major industrial facilities in Western Canada.