PAS: Security is a Safety Issue

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 @ 03:05 PM gHale


By Gregory Hale
Data is now more up to date, prevalent and abundant for automation professionals, but with that comes aspects that can keep security professionals up at night.

“Nothing like getting that data at your fingertips,” said Keith Dicharry, process control and automation director for BASF North America during his talk at the PAS Technology Conference 2014 in Houston. “We are in a technology evolution. We are increasing our ways of getting information, but with that connectivity comes risk.”

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The industry used to talk about remote control of plants and now we have it, Dicharry said. “Remote access and remote control becomes real,” he said. That means there are open portals and increased accessibility for a collaborative approach to issues across the globe. But with that accessibility comes a problem where “everyone has a key.”

“We have a data flood,” Dicharry said. “That data being out there is a good thing and it can also be a scary thing.”

Dicharry said security is not just an issue people have in trying to keep systems from going down.

“Security is a safety issue,” he said. “Increased connectivity allows for quicker decision making and control. We want to have the capability of technology, but we also have the human factor.”

That also means getting the data in the right people’s hands.

In addition, connectivity allows for better visualization which hikes the operator’s ability to manage his span of control.

“There is a better capability for engineers to see what is happening so the can validate changes,” he said.

“I want my best engineer in Germany and my best engineer in the U.S. to be able to understand and be able to diagnose a problem on a compressor,” Dicharry said. “I want them to be able to work side-by-side without having to fly across the pond and get together.”

Yes, the connectivity means engineers can do what they do best and that is working the process to get the most out of it, but they don’t need security issues to get in the way. That is a where a good relationship with IT can come in handy.

“We have to be able to work with IT to ensure a secure system,” he said. “We want to fully utilize our assets and we want to increase reliability of our equipment so we can make more product.”

With technology capabilities changing all the time, it is easy to fall for the latest innovations that could help out. But change for change’s sake is not the way to go, Dicharry said.

“I want to make sure we use technology, but we use it safely.”



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