Good security programs require vigilance and communication

Cyber security awareness is becoming more and more of an issue in light of recent high-profile attacks. Having a plan with clear-cut objectives and having a good relationship with the IT department are essential to avoid issues that can cost the company time and money.

By Gregory Hale, ISSSource December 18, 2015

Cyber security awareness is becoming more and more of an issue in light of recent high-profile attacks, but that doesn’t mean people and companies are being more proactive. Experts at Rockwell Automation’s Process Solutions User Group (PSUG) were asked where users stood with their security programs, and the vast majority said they were at the beginning stages. While it is good to see that users are at least jumping on board the security bandwagon and getting ready to secure their networks, it makes one wonder what took them so long in the first place.

"The idea is to look at a quality defense at the plant level," said Bob Wetter, senior automation and electrical engineer at Archer Daniels Midland. "What is it we want to protect against? We have production facilities all over the world, and we have to protect against something going from one facility to others. If someone is inside, we have far more concerns of somebody doing something physical than plugging into the network."

"There is threat modeling to determine what the threat is," said Clark Case, security leader Rockwell Automation.

"Look at the network to see what you have," said Brian Wisniewski, manager engineering security at Rockwell Automation. "Understanding the adversary and what they are after; that ends up being a business decision on what you have an appetite for to pay for protection."

Jason Dely, global industrial cyber security manager at Rockwell Automation, agreed. "Know what the attack would be for your organization. If you identify what has happened at one plant, you can do your own intelligence to inform the other plants on what to look for," he said.

One of the ways to protect your system is to assign roles to users and not give blanket availability across the platform, Dely said.

Wetter said that one thing Archer Daniels Midland does to authenticate remote users connecting into the network is to have a series of approvals. "The idea is to have three sets of credentials and if you are outside, you need another one-so that is four different credentials."

IT/OT convergence

One of the more lively parts of the session was when panelists started talking about information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) working together to ensure a safe as possible enterprise and plant floor.

"There has to be two sides to the firewall," Wetter said. "The IT guys own one side, and the other side is engineering."

In many cases, issues that occur and the resulting disputes come down to communication.

"Something bad happens, and you come to find out somebody made a change and didn’t tell anyone about it. IT needs to ask and not just do," Wetter said.

Not to say one is better than the other, but from a manufacturing perspective, working with the IT department is a culture change.

"For sure, you have to work with the IT guys," Wetter said. You are not going to pull the wool over their eyes. One of the things driving a culture change was a CEO losing his job. "Look at Target. Our CEO is like: ‘Wow a CEO can lose a job over cyber security.’ Our CEO asked our CIO what we are doing about cyber security, and our security proposal was on (the CIO’s) desk, and the CIO said ‘We are doing this,’ and our proposal got approved."

While that was an amusing anecdote on how Wetter got a proposal passed, there is now an overarching concern at the executive level to ensure a secure enterprise. With more mandates coming down from the C-Suite, that means IT and OT are working closer together, which can be difficult.

"I have spent more time acting not as a security professional, but as a shrink," Dely said. "Don’t leave them in the dark. There has to be communication."

Protecting controllers

One of the audience members asked what happens if a user’s controller ends up being attacked?

"It depends. It depends on what measures you put into place to protect the controller," Case said. "Even if your controller is protected, your tags may not be protected. So, it is not just protection at the controller."

One way to protect the controller is to hard line it so no one can make any changes while the process is running, Case said.

"The attack at the controller can vary," Dely said. "If a denial of service is hitting the controller, it could have an impact. In the end, if exposure is given and there is no testing then there could be a problem."

With a secure network, what other considerations are there to protect controllers?

"You have to understand what the threats are to the environment," Dely said. "As attack sophistication increases our levels of defenses have to increase in sophistication."

Dely also said outside attacks are an issue, but you also have to protect against inside threats. Vigilance is vital and security "is not a set and forget thing."

Gregory Hale is the editor and founder of Industrial Safety and Security Source (, a news and information website covering safety and security issues in the manufacturing automation sector. This content originally appeared on ISSSource. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media,

Original content can be found at