At one time, the technologies that supported industrial processes were self-contained, proprietary, and disconnected. Now the operations environment is connected to the rest of the enterprise through networks that link enterprise resource planning (ERP) and engineering systems with immediate manufacturing information. The virtual connection creates huge financial and process advantages for wired manufacturing companies. It also creates a whole new set of vulnerabilities and risks.
Hackers now work to penetrate these connected systems, launching malicious viruses that may target the Windows platforms deployed on plant floor PCs. Any problem in operations can be devastating to a business, its customers, and the community. The results of a security breech can be lost productivity at best and, at worst, a dangerous, malicious change to a water system, an electric grid, a chemical plant, or an oil refinery.
Compounding the challenge of maintaining security in plant operations is the inherent need for stability. Companies understandably prefer to leave their manufacturing systems up and running. Stopping production to install firewalls, patches, and software updates is disruptive and expensive. Some industries must certify the integrity of production each time they install a new application or an update to an operating system.
Microsoft Partner Solutions Help Secure the Plant Floor
The problems surrounding plant floor security are multiple and complex, with serious consequences. The approach Microsoft and its partners are taking to solve these issues is equally multifaceted and deep.
“It has to be a team effort,” says Ron Sielinski, Microsoft industry technology specialist “We work closely with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies to understand the potential threats. We participate in industry workshops to help set standards and provide prescriptive guidance, we offer direct support to our customers, and we work closely with our partners to make sure they are developing software with state-of-the-art security.”
Many partners choose to build their manufacturing solutions on the Microsoft platform because the top-tier software company has made security one of its top priorities.
Microsoft has implemented a three-prong approach to software security. It strives to make each product:
• Secure by design. Microsoft focuses on the security of products in the design phase so that when they are released, they have as few vulnerabilities as possible.
• Secure by default. Products are always shipped with options defaulted to “off.” This puts the customer in charge of choosing which features to activate and can help some industries manage efforts to comply with regulatory requirements.
• Secure in deployment. Microsoft customers receive regular updates and tools that make it easier to manage security. For the people managing plant floor systems, many of whom often have no background in networking or cyber security, the skilled resources and practical advice Microsoft provides can be invaluable.
Achieve Peak Performance
The Microsoft platform and .NET technologies deliver the integration, communication, and collaboration capabilities that manufacturers need to compete effectively in an increasingly challenging global marketplace. Software partners with expertise in the manufacturing space have chosen to build their solutions on the Microsoft platform so their customers can take advantage of powerful Microsoft technologies such as Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server, and Microsoft Exchange.
Microsoft software is optimized to help manufacturers achieve peak performance:
• The extensive use of Web services and XML schemas in the Microsoft platform empowers manufacturers to achieve their business goals without abandoning prior investments in automation systems, production processes, and other specialized systems.
• Collaborative services provided by SharePoint Portal Server and Exchange Server make it easy for manufacturers to share data and collaborate with vendors and partners across the supply chain.
• Adherence to open industry standards and manufacturing-specific standards such as OPC, S-99, S-95, radio frequency identification (RFID), OAGIS, and UCCNet provide manufacturers with a flexible architecture that supports their existing ERP, CRM, and other control systems.
• Universally familiar project and data management products such as Microsoft Project and Microsoft Excel are easy to learn and already have a high level of adoption within the manufacturing supply chain. Microsoft Office provides standard software for delivering information across teams and enterprises.
• Optimal security measures help to ensure the integrity, confidentiality, and accessibility of plant floor data. In addition to shipping products with maximum security design, Microsoft also provides regular updates and patches to make it easier to manage security.