Have you a Percy Spencer in your operation?

06/06/2017
Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director at obsolete equipment supplier EU Automation, discusses how manufacturers can use their dark data for commercial benefit.

In 1945, an engineer named Percy Spencer was testing energy sources for radar equipment in a laboratory, when he realised a chocolate bar in his pocket had somehow melted. Not long after, the microwave oven was born. In the manufacturing industry, it is also possible to make accidental discoveries; one avenue which is proving particularly fruitful is the use of dark data. 

The phrase ‘dark data’ is used to refer to information collected by a business but not used for any operational purpose. For manufacturers, the data can be collected during a production process or from business enterprise operations. The phrase is often met with a shudder due to a lack of understanding of what it is how it can be used. However, dark data doesn’t necessarily mean bad data.

In the dawn of Industry 4.0, fast moving manufacturing facilities have become increasingly data heavy environments, with information sourced from machine logs, equipment sensors and even social media and consumer demand. Data comes from a myriad of places – but not all of this data is used effectively.

In many cases, if analysed and integrated with the value chain, dark data can be used to make better decisions. Currently, data can be captured from such a wide range of inputs that the potential to make smarter and faster forecasts and decisions is rapidly increasing, as long as plant managers know where data it is stored and what to do with it.

Data relating to production information and consumer insight can be used to drive innovation or improve quality; this information can be used by designers and engineers to improve customer experience and product performance. However, not all data collected can be used to produce a meaningful result.

Good data vs bad data
Despite the potential benefits, not all data is worth saving as it can be expensive to store and maintain. If the data is customer related, risks can also arise from breaches and unauthorised sharing, damaging a business’s reputation. In some industries, such as pharmaceuticals, there are stricter requirements on the storage and formatting of data. If a pharmaceutical company had an issue with the storage or formatting of its clinical trial data, it could lose valuable insights and may be liable for any losses.

Dark data can offer manufacturers an untapped resource for potential insight, or may be a costly waste of space. To decide whether to make the most of the data or to erase it, companies first need to understand where their dark data is and where it has come from. For most manufacturers data is generated by either staff or equipment before it is stored and forgotten.

Enforcing data policies and training staff on the handling and analysis of data will help companies make better business decisions. If a new machine or system is added, the plant manager should consider what data it will accumulate and how this will be managed. Manufacturers should be aware of where data is coming from and what regulations specify they can keep.

Being more aware of where data is coming from and how it can be used can benefit manufacturers looking to make intelligent business decisions, as well as those who just want to save time and space. With diligent data analysis, who knows, you might even discover something as groundbreaking as the microwave.

@euautomation #PAuto #TandM
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Cybersecurity pitfalls!

09/03/2017

Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director of obsolete industrial parts supplier, EU Automation discusses three cyber security pitfalls that industry should prepare for – the weaponisation of everyday devices, older attacks, such as Heartbleed and Shellshock and vulnerabilities in industrial control systems.

IBM X-Force® Research
2016 Cyber Security Intelligence Index

In 2016, IBM reported that manufacturing was the second most cyber-attacked industry. With new strains of ransomware and other vulnerabilities created every week, what should manufacturers look out for in new year?

‘Weaponisation’ of everyday devices
The advantages of accessing data from smart devices include condition monitoring, predictive analytics and predictive maintenance, all of which can save manufacturers money.

However, recent attacks proved that these connected devices can quickly become weapons, programmed to attack the heart of any business and shut down facilities. In a recent distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack, everyday devices were used to bring down some of the most visited websites in the world, including Twitter, Reddit and AirBNB.

Such incidents raise a clear alarm signal that manufacturers should run their production line on a separate, highly secure network. For manufacturers that use connected devices, cyber security is even more important, so they should conduct regular cyber security audits and ensure security protocols are in place and up-to-date.

Don’t forget the oldies
According to the 2016 Manufacturing Report, manufacturers are more susceptible to older attacks, such as Heartbleed and Shellshock. These are serious vulnerabilities found in the OpenSSL cryptographic that allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications and steal data directly from users.

Industrial computer systems generally aren’t updated or replaced as often as consumer technology, which means that some still have the original OpenSSL software installed. A fixed version of the programme has since been released, meaning that manufacturers can avoid this type of attack by simply updating their system.

Keeping industrial control
Manufacturers understand the need to protect their networks and corporate systems from attacks, but their industrial control systems also pose a risk. If an attacker deploys ransomware to lock down manufacturing computers, it could cause long periods of downtime, loss of production and scrap of products that are being made when the attack happens.

This is particularly true in the era of Industry 4.0, where devices are connected and processes are automated. One of the most effective means of safeguarding automated production systems is cell protection. This form of defence is especially effective against man-in-the-middle attacks, whereby the attacker has the ability to monitor, alter and inject messages in a communications system.

In its report, IBM also stated that cyber security awareness in the manufacturing industry is lower than other sectors. The truth is that any company can be the target of a cyber attack. The only way to avoid a cyber security breach is by planning ahead and preparing for the unexpected.

#PAuto @StoneJunctionPR @IBMSecurity

The internet of zombies.

27/06/2016
Last year, a Radware report stated more than 90 per cent of companies surveyed had experienced some sort of cyber attack. However, the term internet of zombies describes a more advanced kind of attack. Here, Jonathan Wilkins of EU Automation discusses the internet of zombies and how companies can prepare for the outbreak. 

Since Dawn of the Dead was first released in 1978, the possibility of a viral outbreak that will turn us all into night crawling, flesh-eating zombies has become a worry for many and a very prolific Hollywood theme. While it’s unlikely this will ever happen, industry has recently started facing an epidemic across IT systems that companies should be aware of. The internet of zombies won’t result in the end of civilisation, but it does put your company’s confidential information at risk. 

Internet_ZombiesThe term internet of zombies, was coined by cyber security solutions provider, Radware in its Global Application and Network Security Report 2015-16. The concept refers to the rise of an advanced type of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, named Advanced Persistent Denial of Service (APDoS). This type of attack uses short bursts of high volume attacks in random intervals, spanning a time frame of several weeks.

In 2015, more than 90 per cent of companies surveyed by Radware experienced a cyber attack. Half of these were victims of an APDoS – up from 27 per cent in 2014.  The report by Radware suggested 60 per cent of its customers were prepared for a traditional attack, but not an APDoS.

Typically, APDoS attacks display five key properties: advanced reconnaissance, tactical execution, explicit motivation, large computing capacity and simultaneous multi-layer attacks over extended periods. The attacks are more likely to be perpetrated by well-resourced and exceptionally skilled hackers that have access to substantial commercial grade computing equipment.

Hackers use virtual smoke screens to divert attention, leaving systems vulnerable to further attacks that are more damaging, such as extortion and theft of customer data.  While the financial services sector is most likely to be targeted, almost anyone can fall victim to the highly effective attacks.

This type of attack is becoming increasingly common in retail and healthcare, where data is considered to be up to 50 per cent more valuable. As IT systems across different sectors become more automated, cyber security specialists are predicting these persistent attacks will happen even more frequently.

Businesses need to find new ways to fight the internet of zombies and can prepare for the outbreak by ensuring they’re equipped to make decisions quickly at the first sign of a hack. Combining several layers of virtual protection with skilled professionals should be the first line of defence for information security.

Paying for additional capacity when developing a website can make the process costly; so many companies scale their system to match a predictable peak. However, in an APDoS attack, sites can experience ten or 20 times more traffic than their usual maximum so it makes sense to allow a healthy margin of error when developing a system.

Having a response plan in place will also improve the chances of restoring a system before any major damage is done. The plan should include preparing contact lists and procedures in advance, analysing the incident as it happens, performing the mitigation steps and undergoinga thorough investigation to record the lessons learned.

It’s likely that zombie films will be as popular as ever in 2016, with another instalment of Resident Evil on the cards. Let’s make sure that the internet of zombies doesn’t rear its head as well by preparing ourselves for the outbreak of APDoS that’s heading our way.

@euautomation #PAuto #Cybersecurity @StoneJunctionPR