’Tis the season!
Ah, the tradeshow season. That period of time between Labor Day and Thanksgiving when we criss-cross the country and meet with solution providers, end users and the professional organizations who serve us all. By the time this issue has found its way into your hands, the editorial team will have logged thousands of air miles, eaten more airport meals than we care to remember, and attended nearly 20 events.
Say what you will about the relative value of such events in the age of the Internet and 24/7 information access but, for those of us in the editorial community, these proceedings represent an exceptional opportunity to gain hands-on exposure to the technologies we cover in the pages of Control Engineering , as well as gain greater insight into trends that will impact you and your businesses. One trend which is generating a significant amount of buzz at virtually every event is cyber security.
As microprocessors squeeze greater number crunching horsepower into smaller and cooler-running packages, virtually every component on the plant floor can now carry an IP address. Such advances deliver an unprecedented degree of process data granularity to the desktop of anyone with the proper credentials… but that insight comes with a price.
Manufacturers need to protect their enterprises from network-borne vulnerabilities, intentional and accidental. A recently released U.S. Department of Homeland Security video depicts a power generator self-destructing during a simulated cyber attack. The notion that a hacker can produce such damaging results via mouse and keyboard is sobering, but it represents an extreme end of the spectrum. A contracted employee, unaware that his laptop computer or USB thumb-drive is carrying a malicious piece of code, could have a more subtle but equally costly effect on the performance and output of your plant.
Identifying and eliminating cyber vulnerabilities can be challenging, but the days of hoping that security is “good enough” or that legacy components are immune from attack are over. If you haven’t taken a good look at the overall security of your production environment and the networked components therein, the time is now. This month’s Cyber Security Supplement is designed to provide you with some insight on where to start and what to consider, and this is a topic that we’ll continue to cover online and in print. Stay tuned.