Manufacturing News

Keeping your manufacturing network systems safe

September 1, 2009
/ Print / Reprints /
ShareMore
/ Text Size+
While it’s easy to blame terrorists when bad things happen to computer networks, manufacturers themselves are usually the cause of network breakdowns, says Eric Byres, chief technology officer of Byres Security Inc. and industrial computer network security consultant.





Byres saw a Midwest food plant network go down because a technician thought he was programming an off-line, test-programmable controller (PLC), but was actually affecting a plant PLC, shutting down the line. In a bakery, the IT staff conducted a port-scanning test, not realizing the test pings also hit 20 PLCs, shutting down the entire plant for a day and costing a million dollars in lost production.

Virtual private networks (VPNs) coupled with firewalls are often seen as a panacea for network ills. Providing a secure connection, VPNs help ensure a technician is connected to the right equipment, but they don’t necessarily prevent human error, nor do they stop the propagation of viruses.

VPN systems designed for the office and IT staff are not appropriate for industrial use on two counts, says Byres. First, when VPNs are used in conjunction with PLCs and other automation equipment, they physically must be able to withstand harsh plant floor environments. Second, VPNs-especially servers-have been notoriously difficult to configure for control engineers who are not necessarily network security experts. Improperly configured VPNs and firewalls provide a false sense of security, but according to Byres, industrial firewalls and VPNs have been designed with control engineers in mind, often providing simple drag-and-drop configuration while checking for security faux pas. 

While secure VPN technology can make networks safer, plant engineers still need to know the identities of their network users and what they’re doing, especially when extranets are used by suppliers and customers. “An analogy I like to use,” says Byres, “is that we build these complex networks, and we don’t always know who’s on them. If they were steam pipes, we’d be very sure who’s plugged into them.”

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Food Engineering Magazine.

You must login or register in order to post a comment.

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

Fabulous Food Plant: Paramount Citrus

Learn more about this fabulous food plant in Food Engineering's article, found here.

Podcasts

Burns & McDonnell project manager RJ Hope and senior project engineer Justin Hamilton discuss the distinctions between Food Safety and Food Defense as well as the implications for food manufacturers of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
More Podcasts

THE MAGAZINE

Food Engineering Magazine

Food engineering magazine 2014 april cover

2014 April

Catch a preview of the Powder and Bulk Show in this April 2014 edition of Food Engineering. Also, be sure to check out a coffee stick making a real stir and a major advancement in the the pet food industry.
Table Of Contents Subscribe

THE FOOD ENGINEERING STORE

Food-Authentication-Flyer-(.gif
Food Authentication Using Bioorganic Molecules

This text provides critical tools and data needed to augment routine food analysis and enhance food safety by aiding in the detection of counterfeit, and potentially deleterious, foods.

More Products

Clear Seas Research

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.

Food Master

Food Master Cover 2014Food Master 2014 is now available!

 

Where the buying process begins in the food and beverage manufacturing market. 

Visit www.foodmaster.com to learn more.

STAY CONNECTED

FE recent tweets

facebook_40.pngtwitter_40px.pngyoutube_40px.pnglinkedin_40px.png