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Growth of wireless technology creates security risks for manufacturers

The bring-your-own-device movement means networks can lack adequate security.

February 12, 2014
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Growth of wireless technology creates security risks for manufacturers

Factory productivity can benefit from flexible production and wireless mobile communication, but the use of connected devices also exposes manufacturers to security breaches and cyberattacks, according to a new white paper from IHS Technology. With wireless network connections set to increase from 2.1 million in 2012 to 3.4 million by 2017, manufacturers would be well-served to understand potential risks and vulnerabilities before their networks are compromised.

“The rising use of wireless networks and industrial Ethernet is leading to a growing trend in the so-called bring-your-own-device [BYOD] movement in the manufacturing business, with workers utilizing their own smartphones and tablets to monitor and control industrial equipment,” says Mark Watson, associate director, industrial automation group at IHS. “However, such devices may lack adequate security, offering hackers easy access to confidential data—or allowing them to spread malware through factory automation systems.” One strategy that counters the inherent risks in this trend is the use of a “honeypot,” or isolated, “dummy” network, which diverts a hacker from the actual manufacturing network while gathering information on the attacker.

IHS says wireless LAN is the most widely used wireless protocol in an industrial context; Bluetooth is widely used in the consumer space because of its potential for providing greater industrial security against cyberattacks. But WirelessHART and ISA 100.11 are direct competitors in the process manufacturing industries.

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