IT and PLC SecurityConnecting the dots between IIoT, PLC Security and Machine Monitoring

If you’re like many American machining companies, you’ve invested in CNC equipment year after year, as business conditions allowed.  You’ve invested in IT solutions from software to SASS to hardware. And now you’re starting to invest in machine monitoring solutions to collect and use machine data.

As you venture into the brave new world of IIoT, Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing, don’t forget to bridge the gap between IT and machine data by addressing PLC (programmable logic control) security. In this article, you’ll see how easy it is to overlook PLC security and how hackers could stop your machines dead in their tracks.

How the PLC Security Risk Developed

Today you probably have an array of new and used CNC machines from different manufacturers with various PLC interfaces and connectivity options. Over the years, as the equipment types multiplied on the plant floor, you modernized the office technology. You’ve had to upgrade computers, phone systems, data storage and a host of software solutions to remain competitive. Somewhere along the way you realized the critical role of information technology and either outsourced IT or hired someone like a network engineer to make sure your data was secure, and security best practices were established.

Because of this evolution, the worlds of the shop floor CNC PLC and the IT department may not have crossed paths.

The IT department may have no idea what CNC’s are on the shop floor. They may not know about computer-driven equipment set up by external vendors. They may not know when a tech-savvy quality manager connects a CNC machine’s PLC to the wireless network because they just got a new CNC which had wireless capability. And what they don’t know opens your company up to a world of IIoT and PLC security risks!

An IT professional can easily miss addressing PLC security. As a manufacturing business owner or operator, it pays to ask yourself:

“Is my IT department informed and capable of addressing the security risks from my shop floor equipment?”

“What experience do they have with industrial standards and scalable processes for equipment data collection?”

Today, forward-thinking manufacturers know they need an integrated data approach to managing their businesses. They need both machine data and the human-interface data from multiple sources to make informed decisions, motivate their employees, and drive productivity.

Information technology is no longer in the IT room only, but in many other unexpected places. PLC’s, tooling vending machines, wireless sensors, and quality equipment are just a few of the sites on a modern shop floor that can unintentionally open the door to malicious attacks.

Keep in mind that hackers:

  • Are within an organization about 80% of the time
  • Do not necessarily need to understand PLC or SCADA to block PC to PLC communication
  • Do not need to understand a PLC to cause operational or programming issues
  • Can crash many PLC’s by merely pinging an IP address
  • Have malware programs that target PLC’s

Make a PLC Security Plan – Involve the Right People

Advances in technology with machine monitoring solutions are critical to your organization’s future. The use of the industrial internet of things (IIoT) for valuable data has become a differentiating factor between manufacturers who are growing and those who are stagnant.  

To keep your manufacturing company safe from internal and external threats, your IT department needs experience addressing both PLC cybersecurity and PLC physical security. You want true PLC expertise when you implement a machine monitoring solution. A good machining monitoring company will work with your IT department to identify and close the PLC security gaps. If you are not yet implementing machine monitoring, shore up your defense by connecting your PLC experts, operational managers and IT resources with each other to create a protection plan for your organization.

Rose of Sharon DeVos is the CEO and Founder of IIoT Automating Solutions in the Chicago, Illinois area. She helps manufacturers select, implement and optimize technology solutions like machine monitoring for proven ROI. Contact her for a free consultation today and protect your PLC’s while you get data to drive your productivity.

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