Industrial safety

Industrial safety in the spotlight of companies

By 29 October, 2021 No Comments
Seguridad Industrial

The gradual growth of digitization is undoubtedly positive for the industry and also a gateway for threats to industrial safety.

In recent years we are witnessing a gradual growth in the transformation of the industry that is committed to the digitization of its processes to obtain greater efficiency in production. As proof, it is only necessary to recognize the increase in the connectivity of its devices, machines, systems that collect information in real time to act accordingly and even anticipate possible failures that interrupt the operation of a plant.

Progress in the digitization of plant processes is very positive for the industry, but these same systems also open access points for threats, make companies more exposed and accessible to attacks. According to some published studies, only in the last two years at least 53% of industrial manufacturers have experienced an attack at their facilities.

In order to balance risks and benefits, it is necessary to talk about industrial safety. A term that has already gained prominence in the industry. And that is expected to go further in the coming months given the new wave of digitization that is expected with the availability of the European Recovery Funds.

A comprehensive and appropriate security strategy

In general, companies in the computing environment already expect software and hardware to conform to rigorous standards when it comes to communication and passwords. But with the irruption of the IoT, of digitization and that the infrastructure of a plant or industry becomes more contacted, it is also necessary to ensure that these good practices and standards are transferred to the operational technology that drives production processes.

Industrial security is already part of the strategy of many industrial companies today, however, the bulk of the budget and many of the resources are allocated to IT cybersecurity, which, being critical in any company, does not incorporate all that interconnected infrastructure which we have been talking about.

For these companies, the next step is to establish a comprehensive and adequate joint security strategy, and that industrial security is just another matter to be dealt with strategically from the IT teams. It will be a difficult step, but one thing that is clear is: not being prepared can have a very high price, especially now that threats continue to increase.

Laying the foundations of industrial safety: people, processes and technology

Industrial safety has a pillar in technology, but it must also rely on people and processes.

Persons. Having aware, sensitized and trained personnel in security matters is an advantage for companies.

As a driving force in any industry, it is important that human teams are well trained in this area in a specific way. Not only because of what the correct use of technology provides (the functional part) but also because of how valuable it is to have the first line of the company, the people, always attentive to possible anomalies and that they are aware that to report on time it is a benefit.

Processes. How do you govern, manage or execute industrial security to maintain a safe environment? With the help of policies and procedures that establish, among others, the communication that must be approved and those that should not, also the requirements for the work of third parties within the plant, the requirements and functionalities allowed or required in each start-up of a new technology or the action protocols to follow to return to normal in case of incidents.

These policies must be aligned with the strategic direction of the company and be up to date with regulations in terms of security; Technology advances very quickly and being up-to-date, periodically reviewing protocols, allows us to face problems with the same speed and not be out of date.

Technology

To put up barriers: filter traffic and segment it, technology to eliminate harmful material (code), define passwords, validate users on the screen and much more. The IT security approach is clearly different from that of OT: the first focuses on protecting data and the second on productive activity (time and availability). And more:

The operational technology that has always been using proprietary communication protocols (Profibus, OPC, etc.) does not have a standardized catalog of security instruments and techniques as it does in IT (antivirus and other protection software). In addition, the life cycle for devices in both environments is completely different, a device in the plant can be in use for many years, 20 or more. And finally, these teams have capacity limitations to use it for security purposes.

Therefore, it is not enough to assume that IT component measurements can be successfully extended to the OT environment. In this sense, the security work for the operating environment must have the joint work of all the actors involved: manufacturers, implementers or companies to work on a common objective: to highlight the risks and protect themselves against them.

IT / OT balance

When companies do not have a balance between IT security and OT security, there is an imbalance between people, technology and processes that results in: an open door to attacks. And the figures support it: organizations that promote cooperation and teamwork are more open to implementing security measures than those that do not work with cohesion.

In short, the industry walks hand in hand with technology 4.0, modifying its traditional way of operating and moving towards greater vertical and horizontal integration of systems. That is where industrial security comes in, becoming a key factor that has become part of the strategic objectives of companies around the world that are betting heavily on digital transformation to drive improvements in smart factories. Something that is also reflected in the prominence that industrial safety has achieved in the European Recovery Funds, with an expected endowment in Spain of 450 million.

Smart factory and industrial safety to not stop

A plant equipped with the intelligence of 4.0 solutions will produce more and produce better.

A plant with a sufficient industrial safety strategy will not produce more or better, but it will reduce the possibility that it will stop. However, being very realistic, the rapid advance of technologies means that nothing is 100% effective; It would not be appropriate to think that there is a 100% safe solution, nor that there is a 0 risk.

That is why being prepared is a good starting point to be able to react on time and return to normalcy as soon as possible. And one way to get ahead in this scenario is to see this situation as a new opportunity to embrace and embrace innovation, and walk hand in hand.