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ABB UK strengthens industrial cyber security task force

03 October 2018

ABB UK has further expanded its cyber security offering with the launch of a dedicated team to tackle the specific and growing cyber security demands unique to sites reliant on industrial automation.

The expanded cyber security task force comprises over 20 specialist roles including a cyber security lead, a host of specialist consultants, digital security engineers, cyber system design specialists and analysts.  They will support operating companies in the oil, gas and petrochemical sector with the protection of their vital industrial control systems.

Through its collaborative operations model, the changes will also include ABB experts from multiple industry sectors working closely with their colleagues in other countries. Together they will offer existing and new clients a one-stop-shop for cyber security assessment, detection and protection.

Industrial plants are vulnerable to attacks which would not only halt production but could also have a devastating impact on health and safety. The UK Health and Safety Executive has recognised the potential safety impact a cyber-attack could cause, threatening life in the event of a catastrophic incident.

Ben Dickinson, recently appointed by ABB to lead its UK cyber security team, said: “The task of securing industrial control systems from cyber-attacks brings its own challenges. A cyber breach on a chemical plant for example could see the attacker take control of valves, thereby putting lives at risk. Malicious cyber-attacks are not just about stopping something from working, they’re also about causing the maximum disruption possible. In many sectors there are known criminal factions keen to cause problems that could result in serious consequences.

“The UK Health and Safety Executive has issued operational guidance which sets out a minimum baseline which operators must implement with regards to managing cyber security from a safety perspective. This calls for a cyber security management system to be put in place to assess health and safety risk from a cyber perspective and ensures that protective processes are put in place, controls are documented, and risks are mitigated as much as possible. ABB can help with each step of this.”

There are currently several publicly disclosed cyber threat actors that target specifically industrial automation systems, one of which, named Triton/TRISIS, in December 2017, targeted the safety instrumentation system of a petrochemical plant in the Middle East with the specific aim of disabling system safety functions.

Dickinson continues: “We know approximately 70 per cent of global companies, across every sector, have been the target of a cyber security attack in the past year and fewer than half of them have any sort of intrusion detection system employed to look out for these attacks. ABB can support operators to mitigate those risks, educate employees and apply defense depth – that is, to apply numerous safety controls around a specific vulnerability. This is especially effective in an industrial environment as it adds layers of defense across the plant, minimizing risk and offering multiple barriers to a would-be attack.”

As companies develop more interconnected systems, harness data and insight from across the world, and develop technologies that automate complex and hazardous processes, so too do criminals, which means that cyber security and protection are key to the future of industry. ABB recommends that all organisations establish a Cyber Security Management System to effectively understand and mitigate cyber risk. It has continuously increased its offerings in products, systems and services to support customers in their efforts to secure their operations.

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