Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog from our friend Mike Womack at Manufacturing Talk Radio. In this post, Mike offers 3 top tips for protecting industrial computers against cyber-security threats, power outages and physical damage....
Recently, Delta Airlines experienced a global computing failure and the fallout has been immense. Thousands of passengers had their flights canceled or delayed, all because the company’s servers failed.
Computers have become absolutely essential to our way of life, and for manufacturers they could mean the difference between turning a profit and losing money. This is why manufacturers need to ensure their computers are protected, in every sense of the word.
No word yet on if Delta was actually hacked, reports claim it was a “power outage” but this seems unlikely. Regardless if it was a power outage or a cyber-attack, it just goes to show how susceptible computers can be to unforeseen, outside forces and the mass chaos that can come from these critical computers failing.
On the shop floor, a computer is an absolute necessity in the modern manufacturing landscape. From keeping track of employee tasks to customer orders and fulfillment, the modern manufacturer relies on this vital piece of hardware.
If a computer fails and downtime occurs, this could cost a business thousands of dollars a minute in lost productivity.
How to Protect Computers against Unscheduled Downtime
Safeguarding computers in industrial environments is more crucial than ever.
Now that we’ve expressed just how important industrial computing is to the modern manufacturer, we’ll be offering some ways manufacturers can protect their computers and keep all that private information secure.
One of the most talked about ways to protect a manufacturer’s private data is utilizing strong passwords. You can bet “password123” has been used multiple times throughout many organizations and is also high up on a cyber criminal’s guess list.
Keeping passwords so simple is like keeping your home key under the doormat. Yes the door is locked, but a criminal doesn’t need to go far to gain access.
Using unique passwords that mix up capital with lowercase letters, including non-sequential numbers and symbols can do so much for the cyber security of a manufacturing organization.
Also, beware of phishing emails. There are ways to send an email and make it look as though it was sent from someone within your organization. These emails may be searching for passwords or other ways to access a server, so if an email looks ‘fishy’, it could be phishing.
Always double check with the person who is requesting private data to ensure the person you’re speaking with is actually who they say they are.
Secondly, Delta insists its recent computer outage was because of a power failure. While writing this article, I accidentally stepped on the surge protector and lost about 1/3 of my completed work. Imagine this kind of mistake on an industrial scale, or worse if the power outage was caused by a blackout.
Without the ability to check what was saved and what was lost instantly, a manufacturer would have to wait until the problem was resolved at the power company.
So, instead of starting production right back up once power returns, employees would first need to check what needs updating, which would lead to even more downtime. A manufacturer could avoid this by installing a backup power generator at their facility.
Connected to the grid or just their computer systems, this could prove absolutely critical when unforeseeable issues arise.
Physical Protection for computers in industrial environments is often overlooked.
Finally, let’s talks about physically protecting a manufacturer’s computer system. With all this talk about digital and electrical threats it can be easy to forget the computer is a physical workhorse.
Especially when located on the shop floor, a manufacturer’s computer faces a wide array of threats. From dust to bangs and scrapes, the industrial shop floor can be a harsh environment for electronics.
However, there are ways to protect this critical piece of manufacturing hardware. Industrial casings are available with the sole purpose of expanding the life of a computer on the shop floor.
Offering this second layer of protection could greatly increase how long a manufacturer’s industrial computer can last and keep expenditures low when it comes to computer maintenance, repairs or replacements.
Covering these three bases; cyber-security, electrical and physical protection, a manufacturer can feel confident in their industrial computer’s performance. As the manufacturing industry continues to become more digital, it will become more and more important to ensure the safety of their industrial computers.
Downtime can cost businesses a lot of money and it’s even more frustrating when it’s because a computer isn’t working. Make sure all of this digital technology is helping to drive your business forward and not leading to additional issues and expenses.