A Simple, Secure and Scalable Solution for IT/OT Convergence

By
Tom Schiller, President of AutomaTech

With over 25 years of working in industrial automation and controls in the manufacturing and utility industries, I’ve seen a variety of industry trends, problems, and associated solutions come and go. Most recently, I’ve noticed an increasing urgency in the need to protect critical assets from invasive cyberattacks, especially within the last five years. Simultaneously,  with the influx of solutions in the IIoT  market the requirement is  growing for a number of critical end-points to be connected faster than ever.

To connect and secure our expanding networks in these industries, we need to effectively merge the fields of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT). Presently, OT operates in a specialized world; where operators, engineers, and technicians work mostly in a proprietary environment, meaning they’re the only ones who are familiar with the existing technology. Meanwhile, IT professionals function in a fast-moving world of applications, processing power, and data security, where new releases come and go, seemingly at the speed of light.

To most effectively merge these two worlds—IT and OT—we need to address two key areas of concern: compatibility and a worldwide skills shortage.

Compatibility

Unlike many years previously, today’s supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, industrial control systems (ICS), and building automation systems are part of the IT world. To keep up with the speed of operations, these devices need to not only be connected quickly, but securely to protect everything from valuable corporate data to public safety.

Secure connectivity up to this point has meant increasing layers of complexity from additional firewalls and security patches. Sadly, not only have I noticed these security add-ons become outpaced by the malicious ambitions of hackers everywhere, but I’ve also seen them add network bulk that greatly slows operations and impedes progress.

Skills Shortage

Beyond slow performance and insufficient security, it also takes an advanced skill set to operate and manage these systems in the newly-formed hybrid world of IT and OT. Not only is it hard to find such expertise, but it’s also tremendously expensive. In order to keep operational costs down, while keeping performance and security up, something new must emerge.

A Unified Solution

Some recent use cases involving Boeing and the manufacturing industry alerted me to a promising new technology called host internet protocol (HIP). From its military roots, HIP has proven effective in securing all networks; from legacy systems in an old wastewater management facility to a state of the art biomedical plant. HIP accomplishes this by replacing the inherent vulnerability of the IP address with a cryptographic entity that creates a private overlay, making your network invisible to hackers. It’s also robust enough to connect any device across public, private, cloud, or cellular networks.

HIP devices can be dropped anywhere within your network to provide supreme levels of micro-segmentation and scalability. It doesn’t matter how large your network grows or how small it stays, HIP is an effectively scalable solution in either case, and it doesn’t require expert IT staff to manage. It’s the simplicity behind the network that impresses me the most perhaps, because everything is managed through an intuitive platform that enables even the least tech-savvy user to remotely add and remove devices. The result includes lower operations costs from a decreased demand for expert IT staff, less system downtime, and increased productivity, which are all music to the ears of OT staff and management everywhere.

As the President of AutomaTech, a provider of automation and information solutions for process and manufacturing facilities in the northeast United States, I am proud of our partnership with Tempered Networks, a leading provider of HIP technology to effectively connect, segment, encrypt, and cloak your critical assets and networks.

Together, we offer customers a value-added networking solution that is simple, secure, and scalable for the manufacturing industry, public utilities, and any other organization. Please contact us today for more information.