Video: IT students explore the world of industrial networks and cyber security

DePaul University expands its IT offerings with a new class on security for industrial control networks.


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As the worlds of traditional IT and industrial control systems become increasingly connected, it’s reassuring to know that there individuals who are trying to understand both sides of that divide. In this new video, you get a chance to see a few minutes of an upper-divisional college-level class on industrial cyber security, offered at DePaul University in Chicago.

The class is taught by Matt Luallen, cyber security consultant and occasional Control Engineering contributor. It’s part of DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media, and available to students pursuing studies in information systems and networking. The video includes some excerpts of Luallen’s review of the quarter during the final session, and a discussion with four students from the larger class that were brave enough to face the camera. They explain why they took the class, and some of what they learned.

As part of the coursework, the students worked in small teams with a typical industrial PLC, a computer configured to work as an HMI, and a small I/O device to simulate a process. Each team had to learn the basics of writing programs in ladder logic to operate a simple pump system filling a tank. Their challenge was to see how the system is configured and protected, and if possible, hack into it from outside. Their main resource was information publicly available on the Internet.

The students’ remarks are particularly interesting because they reflect the observations of people with no industrial background. Everything is off the cuff since our visit was not announced to the students in advance. We’ll let them speak for themselves, but you may be surprised at how well they adapted to this new environment. You may even find it a little scary how easy it is to learn and what they were able to accomplish.

Peter Welander,

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