Cybersecurity a Main Concern for Connected Plants, but Tech is Improving

Security issues are second only to cost concerns when energy generators consider the risks related to implementing connected technology at their power plants, according to a February 15 poll of the audience at POWER’s Connected Plant Conference.

However, continued improvements in available cybersecurity systems are quickly reducing those risks, Stan Schneider, CEO of Real-Time Innovations, told the audience in his keynote address.

“Security is a huge problem, everybody knows,” he said. “I think it’s getting better because security is a layer game.”

Using the most common security technology, such as air gap and firewalls, is not sufficient, but new technologies have the potential to greatly reduce the threat of a cybersecurity attack, according to Schneider. “If you’re dependent on fire walls, realize an insider attack easily breaches a fire wall protection. There’s just so many things that don’t work that people are dependent on for various reasons, but the new technologies [where] you can layer in different levels of security, are definitely making it better,” he said.

Schneider went on describe various new ways that plants can ramp up their security, including implementing measures to secure not just the data in the system, but even the data flow between end-points.

While security is an understandable concern, it should not deter generators from implemented connected plant technology. “Don’t be afraid, defiantly don’t be stupid, but don’t be afraid to connect your plants just because you don’t understand the security technology, go out there and learn it,” he said.

Abby L. Harvey is a POWER reporter.