Cybersecurity protocols to keep plants reliable and productive
Plants are prime targets for cyberattacks, and MRO teams should work closely with their IT counterparts.
by Enrique Martinez, World Wide Technology for Plant Services
As industrial control systems (ICS) merge with traditional IT environments and enterprise networks at increasing speed, many of these systems are left vulnerable to cyberattacks.
A challenge we often encounter with manufacturing organizations across industry verticals is the lack of a common vocabulary and goals. IT doesn't "speak" manufacturing and operational technology, and manufacturing often doesn't "speak" IT or security.
The risks of this misalignment are steep. Cyberattacks in manufacturing can disrupt operations of critical infrastructure, inconvenience customers, increase your operational costs, and introduce safety risks to your staff.
For example, consider a scenario we see far too often: a plant employee receives and clicks on a phishing email designed to mimic a reputable sender in order to gain sensitive information. This computer becomes compromised, allowing bad actors to harvest employee credentials and access the plant's ICS network. From there, the hackers can move laterally throughout the network installing malware, exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities, and wiping all control stations to cause a production line disruption.
Attacks like these can be avoided with some basic security controls. It's imperative for maintenance and operations teams to work with their IT counterparts to identify the greatest risks of this convergence and update their approach to security accordingly. When done effectively, security is manageable and helps plants remain reliable and productive.
A solid defense-in-depth strategy with multiple layers in case of failure is a proven method for protecting these critical assets as they become more digitized. Below are some recommendations on how to get started.