While digital transformation and the move to the Connected Enterprise offer amazing benefits to organisations – improved visualisation, better and faster data acquisition and processing, remote support, and informed decision-making – there is industry-wide concern that the “smart” enterprise is increasingly vulnerable. More connected technology may mean more opportunities for cyber-attack. Add to the mix remote work, where employees are potentially working on their home or personal computers with insufficient anti-virus software, and the concern increases.
Bringing this into a manufacturing, process or mining environment, the threats presented by cyber-attacks go beyond malware, denial of service or ransomware and towards debilitating bugs and downtime. In a process operations context, risks include costly production stoppages and the potential for human harm. One harrowing example was reported by the New York Times in 2018, where a petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia was hit by a new kind of cyber-assault that was not designed to simply destroy data or shut down the plant. Investigators believe it was meant to sabotage the firm’s operations and trigger an explosion. Luckily, the attack was prevented by an error in the attacker’s coding.
While this is a rather drastic example, the message is clear: the risks are very real.