05 December 2005 00:00 [Source: ICB]
The rise of ethernet control systems means you need to take steps to protect your factory against viruses, writes John Baker
With the advent of the Internet, businesses and home computer users alike have had to come to terms with the need to protect themselves against viruses, worms and hackers. The standard approach is to use a firewall to limit access to central servers or the PC.
With the growing use of industrial ethernet networks, manufacturers now also need to take steps to protect critical equipment and computer systems on the factory floor. But the difficulties in using central, software-based firewalls, that require interrupting the process system to install, calls for an alternative approach.
Step forward Berlin, Germany-based security startup Innominate Security Technologies, which last month launched a range of hardware devices that can be placed on critical computer-controlled equipment, to provide virus protection on a machine-by-machine or machine cluster basis.
Innominate’s mGuard offering, which it describes as a ‘device attached security’ product, essentially monitors the Ethernet signals into and out of the equipment, and raises an alert if there is any unexpected communication. This can be a deliberate attack by virus or worm, or even an unintentional signal change brought about by mistake, say by a maintenance engineer.
The beauty of the mGuard approach, says Olaf Siemens, ceo of Innominate, is that the device is essential ‘plug and play’, and ‘learns as it goes along’, so that complex programming is not required. In critical situations, the devices can be installed in parallel to give back-up protection if one unit fails. ‘One of our main aims’, explains Andreas Beierer, director of marketing & alliances, ‘is high availability. The learning of one device is transferred to the standby unit automatically and in case of failure, this is immediately ready to take over.’
Also, the device remains invisible to the control system itself and thus undetectable to would-be hackers, from inside or outside the network. Although mGuard is not specifically designed for chemical manufacturing environments, it is eminently suitable, explains Siemens, in that it can be installed without affecting current software and therefore the control process does not have to be reverified. He expects the chemicals and pharma producers to have good understanding of the issues surrounding security, given the emphasis already placed on this by regulators.
Wacker-Chemie is using the system, and others such as Degussa, Roche and Novartis are looking at it.
Innominate, which has been operational since December 2001, recently raised a second round of venture capital funding amounting to €4m, some of which will be used to expand its sales and marketing activities outside the German-speaking region in Europe, with the US and Japan also targeted
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