For end users: Security 101

If end users were not frightened before the Siemens 2011 Automation Summit, they are now as cyber security took center stage.


ISS SourceIf end users were not frightened before this week, they are now as cyber security took center stage at Siemens 2011 Automation Summit.

“I am not an expert in security, and I thought we were in good shape before I got here and attended all these sessions,” said Mark Chambers with Astec Industries, a maker of asphalt and the lone end user on Thursday’s Cyber Security Roundtable at the Automation Summit in Orlando, Fla. “I felt like we were in pretty good shape. I think we now have to improve our system even more. I think we are vulnerable.”

Questions and answers during the lively roundtable ran the entre gamut from Stuxnet to making the business case for security. While there were not iron clad solutions, the give and take proved to be an educational experience for the audience and the panelists.

When asked if the panelists felt manufacturers were secure, the answers coming back were in most cases in the negative.

“People will put in a solution and then will walk away and not maintain it,” said Joel Langill, chief technology officer at SCADAhacker. Users need to treat security like it they would a control system and follow it through its lifecycle, he added.

“There is work to be done and we have to remember it is not a one and done process,” said John Cusimano, security director at exida. “You also have to work with best practices.”

The level of patience and understanding is low when it comes to a cyber incident.

“If a component fails or there is a lightning strike, the customer will not be happy, but they will understand, but if some kind of virus or worm gets in, people will come to me saying why is it down,” Chambers said.

An interesting aspect of the roundtable was the lack of awareness of security from the end users. One question to the panelists was simply, where do manufacturers start on the road to a secure system?

Langill said the Department of Homeland Security as a spot on its website that talks about how a manufacturer could get started. Christoph Lehman, of Siemens, said his company’s service offerings have a beginner stage to start the process.

Sometimes taking a step back and understanding what you really are looking for is the way to go.

“The best place to start trying to figure out where security fits in your organization is to not panic and see how you can implement security in to your business operations,” said Tyler Williams, president and co-founder of Wurldtech.

When you decide to move toward a security solution, the end user will have to make a business case and Cusimano said you have to make a business justification and to do that you can look to the ISA99 security standard which talks about making the financial reasons.

Justifying security to upper management from an end user perspective is not easy, Chambers said.

“Money talks with those guys,” he said. “(A solutions provider) can go in to the owners and you may scare him half to death, but after you leave, he will call me and ask me to do something about it.”

One area Langill talked about was working with insurance companies and seeing if an end user showed they followed best practices and complied to all standards and regulations, they could see a reduction in insurance premiums. Right now it is just talk, but that could be something that happens in the future.

Talk also came back to the engineering, IT relationship.

The relationship can be difficult, but “we bring the two groups together and explain each other’s position and they seem to understand,” said Stefan Woronka, of Siemens.

“We are constantly getting calls from our operators saying the IT guys came in last night and I can’t run my motor this morning,” Chambers said. “We need to do a better job of educating our customers.”

“IT is going to win the battle,” Williams said. “They have the budget and they sit next to the CIO and they have the distribution and monitoring capabilities. You have to dialogue with IT and share your pain.”

“Once they start working together, they start understanding each other,” Woronka said.

No security roundtable would be complete without a discussion about Stuxnet, when one end user asked if Stuxnet could happen again.

“The quick answer is yes,” Langill said.

“Stuxnet was very targeted and the people that created it went to great pains to make sure everyone else would not be affected,” Cusimano said. “The next person may not be as careful.”

- Edited by Amanda McLeman, Plant Engineering,

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