HIMA’s holistic safety plan.

By Gregory Hale
Digitalization is becoming more ubiquitous across the manufacturing automation industry because it truly holds tremendous opportunities for end users to boost efficiency, increase flexibility and ensure their plants gear up for future growth.

At the same time, the movement toward digitalization brings a security threat the industry is just now coming to grips with.

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Just look at large-scale cyberattacks and vulnerabilities in chip hardware affecting industrial operations around the globe and it is clear it is time the process industry takes cybersecurity seriously.

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Along those lines, HIMA safety experts explained during a press conference last week at the ARC Industry Forum 2018 in Orlando, FL, why plant operators should implement a holistic functional safety approach that ensures plant security.

Last August, a safety controller deployed in a Middle East process facility was successfully hacked into. The safety instrumented system (SIS) ended up compromised by malware called Triton (also Trisis and HatMan), but in the process, the safety system did its job and safely shut the facility down.

While no damage or injuries occurred, the incident should serve as a wake-up call to heighten awareness of cybersecurity in the industry as it was the first publicly-known successful attack on a safety instrumented system – which is the last line of defense in any process plant.

In addition, critical hardware vulnerabilities affecting most modern processors have also just been identified.

Attack modes such as Meltdown and Spectre exploited these in order to steal data from computers all around the world.

“What we want is a 100 percent guarantee, but we won’t get it,” said Dr. Alexander Horch, vice president of research, development and product management at safety provider, HIMA. “For safety, there is none. For security, there is none. There needs to be a holistic approach.”

Horch talked about HIMA’s holistic functional safety approach which protects the core SIS as well as its environment and plant operators to get the maximum level of safety and security possible.”

The purpose of modern functional safety solutions is to bring safety and security risks to a minimum.

This holistic approach not only includes the core SIS, but also its environment like the engineering station, asset management tools (AMS) and handhelds as well as field entry panels and HMIs.

For security to exist in a SIS, it depends on five different areas:
1 Controller hardware and firmware
2 Engineering tools
3 Communications infrastructure
4 PC interface
5 Lifecycle management

In terms of firmware, a dedicated operating system specifically developed for safety-critical applications runs on HIMA safety controllers. On the hardware side, unused Ethernet ports can be disabled and/or locked physically.

When it comes to the engineering, Horch said HIMA works with its own, single-purpose engineering tool SILworX, again 100 percent HIMA software.

Also, the communication infrastructure has to be secured. The HIMA security environment relies on the proprietary protocol for controller communication SafeEthernet, and the communication stack is Achilles certified by Wurldtech.

For an effective cyber-defense, the PC infrastructure should be set up with a secure BIOS management, reduced access rights and with only the required Windows services activated.

Lifecycle management has to take security into account, too. HIMA safety systems have received various security certifications such as Achilles, ISASecure, EDSA and TUV.

“Security is built in from the beginning and not added on,” Horch said. “Either you do it or you don’t. This is something you can’t come back to. This is cybersecurity down to its core.”

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