It's a lock: Secure your network

Sheila Kennedy says vendors are joining forces to offer more-robust industrial network security solutions.

By Sheila Kennedy

Industrial networks are not what they used to be. These critical infrastructures now accommodate more systems, devices, and data than ever before, making security far more complex. The cloud, the internet of things (IoT), the convergence of operations and information technology (OT and IT), persistent cybersecurity threats, and a growing skills gap are among the forces heightening security challenges. Fortunately, new monitoring and protection solutions and strategic alliances are helping to mitigate risks, eliminate blind spots, and enable real-time, proactive control of industrial network security.

Active monitoring

As the threat landscape evolves, companies need to recognize that assets operating in a connected environment must be protected, advises Tom Mueller, executive director of product management at GE Digital’s Wurldtech. Wurldtech applies security in real-world OT environments with products and services that let customers identify and mitigate threats, Mueller says.

“Wurldtech’s technology solution, OpShield, monitors network traffic in OT networks, enforces policies, and blocks attacks at the application command level, helping reduce the attack surface in critical infrastructure," he says. "The technology provides protection at the point where traditional or next-generation firewalls leave off and is designed specifically for OT environments.”

The Indegy cybersecurity platform provides visibility into the critical control layer of OT networks. All activity and access – whether authorized or not – is monitored, says Indegy CEO Barak Perelman. Activity also is monitored regardless of whether it is performed over the network or directly on the physical devices, helping to eliminate security blind spots, Perelman says.

“Indegy is nonintrusive, agentless, and uses deep-packet-inspection technology that builds a continuous audit trail of activity, including access to controllers (PLCs, RTUs, DCSs) and all changes to controller state, logic, configuration settings, firmware uploads/downloads, etc.," he says. "It captures all modifications and analyzes risk to devices.”

A nonintrusive joint solution integrates SCADAfence’s Industrial Continuous Network Monitoring with Gigamon’s GigaSECURE Security Delivery Platform. GigaSECURE aggregates and deduplicates network traffic and passes it to SCADAfence for continuous monitoring. IT and OT personnel are alerted to abnormal activity in real time.

"When combined, SCADAfence and Gigamon offer broader coverage of industrial networks to improve visibility,” says Yoni Shohet, co-founder and CEO of SCADAfence.

Secure connections

Network, system, device, and data connections require special attention. ProSoft Connect from ProSoft Technology is a cloud-native platform designed for secure remote monitoring of automation systems. Its Container and Microservices architecture is designed to minimize vulnerability to attacks. The platform avoids the need for user-installed software, and there are fewer components as compared with a full VM and operating system. Containerized functions prevent potentially cascading issues.

“ProSoft Connect’s EasyBridge technology lets the user’s PC work as if it were directly connected to a switch on a remote network,” says Keith Blodorn, director of the wireless program at ProSoft Technology.

“This kind of streamlined process lets users get right to their top priority – making sure they can monitor and troubleshoot devices worldwide from wherever they are.”

The SkkyHub cloud service and DataHub and WebView middleware products from Skkynet Cloud Systems are focused on ensuring the safety and security of SCADA processes, embedded devices, and financial information systems.

Skkynet's IoT approach "needs no VPN, keeps all firewalls closed, works with corporate proxies, and yet allows two-way data communication at speeds that rival on-premises performance, even in systems with tens of thousands of points," says Andrew Thomas, CEO and lead developer at Skkynet Cloud Systems.

Holistic protections

For Rockwell Automation, partnerships with companies like Cisco (for secure network convergence) and Panduit (to optimize physical network infrastructure) advance the goal of making networks remain robust, reliable, and secure, helping manufacturers reduce risk while boosting performance and reliability.

“Engineered solutions and integration services help in implementation to deliver that fully designed network infrastructure to the plant floor, and even help manage and monitor it,” says Pat Murray, market development director at the company.

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