By Sal Conti, remote support manager, Rockwell Automation
Remote access is increasingly common across industries — and we can easily see why. It can provide significant benefits to end users and opportunities for their OEM partners.
For OEMs, remote access offers an additional revenue stream, stronger customer relationships and competitive differentiators. They can monitor a customer's machine performance from anywhere in the world and respond to critical situations remotely, saving travel and on-site costs.
End users are realizing similar benefits. They're implementing smart machines that easily integrate with enterprise-wide networks and share information with their OEM partners. OEMs can respond faster to equipment issues or help prevent them in the first place — resulting in less downtime and increased production. In addition, facility operators have fewer machines to worry about and can rely on service-level agreements to guarantee uptime.
However, as end users receive more remote-access requests, they're increasingly mindful of the security implications. And with good reason: According to Kaspersky Lab/B2B International, one in five manufacturers has suffered security breaches leading to intellectual property loss. As a result, many end users' IT departments are moving toward one common platform to manage and audit all remote-access activities with vendors.
OEMs should share that concern to help protect their customers and themselves.
Lower-priced security technology can help OEMs remain competitive. However, OEMs should consider this: It only takes one hacked machine leading to an intellectual property leak, production stoppage or any other number of potential negative outcomes to ruin their reputation. Selecting a lower-level security technology may seem like a simple choice, but the wrong decision could lead to serious, long-term repercussions.
An unsecure remote-access connection can be an easy way for hackers to get into manufacturing operations, so OEMs must do all they can to secure their customers' remote-access connections and protect their own reputation.
Security as a Differentiator
Any remote-access solution should provide the appropriate levels of security to meet the manufacturer's current and future needs, and align with established security standards. More than that, OEMs can use security as a differentiator. An aggressive stance on protecting intellectual property, preventing unauthorized access and providing secure remote access can help OEMs stand out in a marketplace full of confusion about cybersecurity and hacking risks.
When deciding on a secure remote-access solution, OEMs have different options across a range of features and security strengths. For example, a standard level of secure remote access can provide a remote-access audit trail, on/off end-user control, outbound-only communication, secure socket layer (SSL) encryption and user authentication.
More sophisticated remote-access offerings also can incorporate security certificates, MAC ID certificate, access limits by user and devices, and remote-access surveillance and notification.
Using standard programmable logic controller (PLC) security features with FactoryTalk® Security software, for example, also can provide additional security. If the end user has a converged plant-wide Ethernet (CPwE) architecture in place, OEMs can use this to segment the traffic allowed through the remote-access communication. Network segmentation also allows end users to restrict access to zones within the network, protecting the end user and OEM from cybersecurity risks.
The additional cost of investing in higher security technology may seem unnecessary to OEMs. But with the correct security procedures and architectural systems in place, more secure remote access can differentiate an OEM, deliver more value to end users, and reduce the risk of a reputation ruined by cybersecurity hacks.
Download this industrial security guidebook for more information on how OEMs can protect themselves and their customers.
The Journal From Rockwell Automation and Our PartnerNetwork™ is published by Putman Media, Inc.