IPP&T Magazine Online

How secure are you?

May 3, 2022   Don Horne

Opinion

This month’s ISA Calgary Show is definitely a showcase for high-tech, looking at automation, IIoT technologies, SCADA telemetry and remote analytics.

We’re in the 21st century now in case you didn’t know it.

But there is one major topic that is drawing a lot of interest – a topic that wouldn’t have registered a blip on the radar 20 years ago – a panel discussion on the benefits of industrial cyber security.

It follows up on an opening keynote breakfast talk next week by Chris Mathers, a crime, terrorism and cyber-security consultant based out of Toronto, Ont.

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The former RCMP man is not only raising awareness but a few eyebrows, as he will be sharing stories of malware and ransomware attacks that had left companies at the mercy of these Internet criminals.

The biggest takeaway? You aren’t too big or too small to be a victim.

The panel discussion that follows: Challenges and Benefits of Automating Industrial Cybersecurity, deals with a number of topics, like the importance of IoT and IIoT and how to mitigate attacks between cyberspace and physical worlds, and how companies should deal with legacy systems and their incompatibility with IoT/IIoT.

Forgive me, after a few hours of being immersed in high-tech lingo, I sometimes forget that these acronyms are still a bit foreign to many. The IoT (Internet of Things) describes physical objects with sensors, processing ability, software, and other technologies that connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the Internet or other communications networks, whereas the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) refers to interconnected sensors, instruments, and other devices networked together with computers’ industrial applications, including manufacturing and energy management.

But it is the human factor that can create a weakness in a company’s cyber security that many don’t take into consideration – especially now, given the increasing dependence on contract workers, due to the skill gap shortage that exists across North America.

The biggest issue is that companies now use multiple vendors, which can lead to a lack of widespread compliance to industry-adopted standards that can introduce risks and challenges to the security of many products.

Given that Russia has notoriously been identified as being behind a number of cyber attacks in the West, the war in Ukraine has ramped up such malware attacks against North American companies and infrastructure.

Sorry for being a Debbie Downer, but this is the world we live in.

On a lighter note, the Calgary show will welcome some 5,000 attendees with 2,000 companies conducting business, browsing some 200 exhibitors.

Included in the program were 10 tradeshow theatre sessions and 30 presentations – certainly a lot of bang for the buck.

ISA Calgary has always been about automation, robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and industrial technology (IT) solutions – the future of process manufacturing. It is where innovative solutions and market-ready products are on display, and where companies can get a leg up on the competition.

This shift to give importance to online and digital security and safety is being echoed at the Canadian Process Control Association’s (CPCA) annual general meeting (AGM) being held in Whistler, B.C. in June.

Andrew Wynn-Williams, divisional vice-president, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) is delivering a keynote address on incorporating product safety certification and compliance within a company’s digital transformation strategy.

Shifting slightly from machine to man, another interesting keynote at the CPCA’s AGM will include the interesting results generated by a study on equipment buyers in the food and beverage industry.

David Allison’s The Science of Influence: Breakthrough Data to Motivate Equipment Buyers looks at how humans make decisions, utilizing data from 750,000 surveys to help companies like PayPal, The United Nations Foundation and Lululemon understand how to motivate the people they want to reach. The biggest takeaways from the study are why demographic ideas about your customers are misleading you; how core human values are a far more powerful way to understand people; and exactly what will motivate your customers, and how to use the research findings to influence more people more often.

Data is powerful when it is understood and used effectively.

Cyber security is a powerful tool when you understand the threats that are posed, and when it is employed effectively to defend against those threats.

Be safe and be successful.

Don Horne, Editor, IPP/T magazine


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