Cybersecurity Pressed to the Forefront in Digital Emergence

Over the last 20 years, digitization has been a hot-button phrase across the global landscape as computers and technology began to make their way forward, albeit slowly. As these new processes and innovations have emerged, the need for new security measures to protect companies has also grown.

What started as a slow crawl and then walk a couple decades ago, eventually worked its way into a nice jog, and then sprint in recent years. Companies are now digitizing seemingly every aspect of their businesses, integrating technology on all levels and at nearly every turn.

 

In the industrial world, smart factories with highly skilled automation makes for a smooth process, if of course, it all works properly. This is where the need for security comes in. Companies are getting smarter, but so are offenders that could compromise an organization’s entire operations. Herein lies the need for a system to keep the business safe.

 

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, dedicated to keeping people and businesses safe in the digital world. To talk about some of the challenges faced in today’s environment, we spoke with Ben Knowles, vice president of technology at Spec Engineering, a Gray Company.

Increased digitization across the global landscape has forced companies to focus more attention in the area of cybersecurity to keep up with growing demands.

Why is cybersecurity so vital to companies, especially given the climate of today’s business world?

 

Our customer relationships revolve around trust, and part of that entails protecting our customers’ intellectual property that we are provided in the course of executing our projects. A data breach could negatively affect the reputation of Spec, our customers, and also business relationships. It’s important to stay up to date with cybersecurity best practices to help assure that sensitive information is safeguarded.

 

From a manufacturing, and namely, food processing standpoint, what makes them more or less vulnerable to a breach?

 

Equipment in industrial environments is often built to last and designed with maintenance in mind, but the same can’t always be said for the software solutions that connect them. Software in these environments, if not properly maintained, can fall behind on important security patches which open the door to potential cyberattacks. Manufacturing plants may not have the required resources in IT to maintain these systems, so it’s important to go the extra mile when designing these solutions to make sure that access controls are properly locked down and alerts are in place for potential security incidents.

 

Technology is vitally important in protecting companies. Gray partners with Claroty, a cybersecurity firm, to provide the technology needed to keep customers safe. How do Gray and Claroty view the role of new technology with the potential for risk and how companies can protect themselves?

 

A recent trend is the move to what’s called “edge computing,” which means placing a ruggedized server on the plant floor that is resistant to elements such as vibration, heat, and dust. This allows for data to flow between systems much faster, since the server is located closer to where the action is, but it also introduces new security concerns. In a traditional setup, your server would live in a server room or data center, where physical and data security domains are more easily understood and addressed. The vision behind edge computing is that data can flow through the plant as fast as possible, and then the edge server can send high level reporting data to the cloud, so the customer can have a real-time birds eye view across their business operations.

 

What trends do you see related to cybersecurity?

 

With the increase in computing power in the past decade, it has become easier for passwords to be guessed through automated means. This is why systems require you to come up with passwords that are increasingly complex to try and combat this. The long-term solution to this problem is called “multi-factor authentication,” which adds an extra step beyond needing only a password, but may also for example, send a text message with a code to your phone. These extra steps make it more difficult for someone to access your account without your knowledge.

"Our customer relationships revolve around trust, and part of that entails protecting our customers’ intellectual property that we are provided in the course of executing our projects... It’s important to stay up to date with cybersecurity best practices to help assure that sensitive information is safeguarded."
Ben Knowles, Vice President of Technology

Spec Engineering

With the continually advancing technology, the demand for increased cybersecurity looks like it will continue to rise. It will be up to companies and businesses to not only invest in this new technology but also new security to keep their companies moving forward in the years ahead.

    Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray.

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