Be cyber-prepared: What cyber-security issues are facing the industry in 2020?

Feb. 17, 2020
In this Big Picture Interview, Donovan Tindill explains why detection and response are becoming as crucial as incident prevention.

Donovan Tindill is a control systems cybersecurity subject matter expert with the Honeywell Industrial Cybersecurity Marketing team having previously spent more than 17 years a control systems cybersecurity consultant in Canada and projects globally. Plant Services editor in chief Thomas Wilk caught up with him at the start of the year to find out what cyber-security issues are facing our industry in 2020. You can listen to their full conversation as part of the Plant Services The Tool Belt podcast series.

PS: As the new year starts, what are the two or three things that are top of mind for cybersecurity professionals like yourself?

DT: First would be visibility into OT security and knowing what needs to be secured. I’ve been in many facilities where I have been asked to help secure OT cyber-assets and systems like environmental monitoring, heat trace, DCS, SCADA, etc. But, I have to go find them first and this is a very labor-intensive exercise because existing documentation is either inaccurate or missing.

Once we identify what we need to secure, with the larger goal of having visibility into OT cybersecurity, we have to secure it. If we discover an electrical relay protection network that is isolated and is dealing with high voltage relays and protection, before we secure it, we need to ask a few questions: What software is on it, and are there patches available? Could we harden it? Are there settings we could remove?

Then we expand our thinking to include all the different domains that go into cybersecurity. That includes subjects such as authentication, remote access, patching, hardening, monitoring, and reporting.

PS: Are there other top-of-mind issues that are facing the cyber industry right now?

Big Picture Interview

This article is part of our monthly Big Picture Interview column. Read more interviews from our monthly Big Picture series.

DT: Yes – incident readiness. Based on our team’s experience conducting cybersecurity vulnerability assessments and risk assessments, there are two things you need to be ready. First is having strong protective controls in place that reduce the probability of exploit like authentication, firewalls, antivirus, and application whitelisting. That’s where most industries have invested for the last 10 or 20 years.

Next, you need strong detection and response capabilities, because that is what reduces the severity of an impact. We need to be able to detect if we’ve been exploited, or inappropriate use, or suspicious behavior, and then respond as quickly as possible.

In a survey that I’ve monitored, more than 85% of organizations surveyed admitted to some type of cyberattack in the last 12 months. In a different survey that Honeywell commissioned, half admitted that cyberattacks had suspended their operations.

PS: What kinds of tips or advice would you have regarding cyber preparedness for our maintenance and reliability audience?

DT: We’re becoming more and more dependent upon control systems and technology to function and succeed. At some point in time, there was a justification or an ROI that was made to invest in that technology in the first place. But what if it was down for cybersecurity reasons, somebody hacked in, or ransomware, or denial of service, and it was out not just hours, but potentially days? I’m not talking about plant downtime or process downtime, but the total denial of your digital systems. The networks, the computers, the firewalls, and the data on them. Do you have workarounds and recovery plans?

Cybersecurity is one of the few domains capable of having this kind of impact if it’s not addressed. It’s a mindset that you must carry through the entire life cycle of the control system, from its initial selection through to design, configuration, commissioning, and maintenance. Chances are, the control systems we have now are legacy technology. They were built or designed 10 or 20 years ago, so cybersecurity wasn’t baked into it from the beginning.

We’re working to mitigate that now, and the key takeaway is to leverage every opportunity from daily checklists: When you’re doing maintenance on the system, or procedures, leverage unplanned outages, as well as scheduled turnarounds to improve cybersecurity.

Sponsored Recommendations

Arc Flash Prevention: What You Need to Know

March 28, 2024
Download to learn: how an arc flash forms and common causes, safety recommendations to help prevent arc flash exposure (including the use of lockout tagout and energy isolating...

Reduce engineering time by 50%

March 28, 2024
Learn how smart value chain applications are made possible by moving from manually-intensive CAD-based drafting packages to modern CAE software.

Filter Monitoring with Rittal's Blue e Air Conditioner

March 28, 2024
Steve Sullivan, Training Supervisor for Rittal North America, provides an overview of the filter monitoring capabilities of the Blue e line of industrial air conditioners.

Limitations of MERV Ratings for Dust Collector Filters

Feb. 23, 2024
It can be complicated and confusing to select the safest and most efficient dust collector filters for your facility. For the HVAC industry, MERV ratings are king. But MERV ratings...