Ovation Users’ Group – Cybersecurity, Customer Service and Flexible Deployment Strategies Drive Improved Operations and Performance

by , | Aug 19, 2020 | Control & Safety Systems, Cybersecurity, Digital Transformation, Power Generation, Water & Wastewater

Todd Walden

Author and Blogger

Day two of the Ovation™ Users’ Group Conference saw speakers focusing on the importance of cybersecurity in driving better operations across the power and water industries.

Hyperconnectivity challenges cybersecurity

Many organizations already maintain protection and prevention but haven’t focused on detection, which is critical to keeping protection up to date. Robert Lee, chief executive officer of Dragos shared that organizations looking to improve cybersecurity should focus on detection and response. Developing a detection strategy can help the team see who is doing what across the organization and identify risky behaviors that need to be altered or eliminated. Robert explained,

Because we weren’t doing detection, we never tuned our prevention strategies over the years. Things change, so I’d really encourage you to focus a lot on the detection category.

Plants also need a good instant response plan. Robert suggests identifying which cyber threats are the most likely targets for the organization, and to research what attacks have happened in your specific industry in the past. Both strategies will better arm security teams to prepare a response to a critical question:

“What would this threat look like? Do we even have the data or systems or technology or people or process or training to be successful in this incident?”

Robert also highlighted that there is no better time than the present to talk to your business units, plant leads, and security staff to start understanding the future of cybersecurity at your organization. Hyperconnectivity has always been a challenge in cybersecurity, and it has gotten more difficult as organizations have expanded connectivity outside the plant in the face of a global pandemic. Organizations need to begin preparing for what they will do after COVID. Robert asks

Are there things we want to take advantage of, and what do we want to account for so we can make sure that the security foundation we’re operating with facilitates success?

Flexibility makes cybersecurity accessible

Cybersecurity is only useful if an organization has tools to support it, said Jaime Foose, Emerson’s director of security solutions and lifecycle services. Jaime acknowledged the many strides industrial power and water organizations are making toward more secure operations, but also noted that one-size-fits-all cybersecurity solutions aren’t necessarily accessible or appropriate for everyone.

As it looks to the future, Jaime explained, Emerson is seeing a customer need for more flexibility in the cybersecurity arena. That flexibility starts with basic cybersecurity mechanisms embedded in the control system.

We believe cybersecurity should be accessible to every plant, every facility, regardless of if you have a big budget, a small budget, a single machine or hundreds of machines.

Emerson is offering a solution, Jaime stated, with a tiered-structure approach. At the most basic level, cybersecurity capabilities are engineered into the Ovation platform. Organizations can enter at any tier and then scale up security as their needs and footprint increase.

Cybersecurity Tiers

Centralization strategies driven by flexibility

Steve Schilling, Emerson’s vice president of technology for R&D and engineering, expanded on the ways Emerson will continue to deliver the scalability and flexibility sought by customers. A two-pronged approach focused on the ongoing evolution of the Ovation platform and a strong digital transformation strategy will help organizations continually integrate their smaller subsystems. Steve explained,

One size no longer fits all when it comes to hardware and software.

Which is particularly true as organizations grow, adding new equipment and business units that may be spread across the plant, the region, or the globe. Wider-reaching integration with the Ovation platform will allow these organizations to bring smaller islands of control into the fold and deliver larger overall system capacity.

Many organizations are already making this move toward flexibility by deploying controllers in remote locations. Bringing remote equipment into a more centralized control system allows for simplification of control, engineering, and training that is critical to safety, efficiency, and performance improvement.

Conference Continues Through Aug. 27

The Ovation Users’ Group Conference resumes August 20 with the conference awards and a participant Q&A and runs August 25, 26, and 27. The latter three days will be in-depth, expert-led industry sessions focused on the power, water, and wastewater segments.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.