By Shawn Gold
“May you live in interesting times,” often referred to as the Chinese curse, seems to be a good fit for where we have found ourselves over the past several years. The importance of server- and network-based IT solutions for automation systems has grown rapidly in recent years. Continually increasing technology capabilities – perhaps growing faster than we are able to adapt effectively – present us with ever increasing challenges.
The Information Technology (IT) organizations within most companies of any size are old hands with this evolutionary process, and their best practices have matured and improved over many years. That’s not to say that IT professionals don’t get surprised – particularly in the areas of network access and the perverse nature of cyber terrorists.
In the control systems environment, we enjoyed a more proprietary, protected environment and considered ourselves immune to security attacks, but the price we paid was in connectivity and information exchange in a timely and controlled manner. As we adopted more open technologies, much as our corporate IT organizations have done, we began to see many of the vulnerabilities associated with the introduction of these technologies. Basically, we have requirements that are quite similar to corporate IT organizations; however, an intrusion in a control system environment carries with it more opportunity for physical harm than is typical in the corporate environment. For this reason, we are now taking the view of an industrial IT approach for control systems.
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