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Factory of the Future meets Stuxnet’s Children: Egad!

Cyber-attacks on automation systems have always seemd to be a “theoretical problem.” That is, until the Stuxnet virus was uncovered. Between Frost & Sullivan’s view of the future of industrial automation systems and the capabilities of Stuxnet has to manipulate and destroy these systems, author Eric Byres discusses the threat it poses to the new field of industrial automation.

The Evolution of Future Factories

The adoption of cloud computing, tablets and mobile platforms, and secure wireless networks coupled with enterprise software are some of the “Mega Trends” that will steer the future of factory, according to a short report by Frost & Sullivan, an international analyst group. These technologies will allow companies to utilize cost-effective business practices. Sharing real-time data from the factory to corporate will become much easier.

The Next Generation of Stuxnet-like viruses

However, as factories become more connected, industrial cyber security becomes an increasingly critical matter. While Stuxnet was originally targeted to harm Iranian nuclear power plants, its capabilities to the broader industries reveal what other upcoming viruses could have the potential to do. Byres suggests that:

It is possible that the goal of the next generation of malware is not to harm people, but to quietly stop production at a utility, or impact the production of a rival, or short sell the shares of a company or extort money under the threat of a disruption. The banking industry has faced these sorts of financially motivated attacks over the past decade. It is unrealistic to hope that the industrial world will not experience the same.

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About Gavin Martin

Information systems architect / technical design authority with over 20 years experience delivering small-scale through enterprise systems to commercial, finance and government customers.

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