Worlds in Collision: Ethernet on the Plant Floor

E. Byres, J. Carter, A. Elramly and D. Hoffman; “Worlds in Collision: Ethernet on the Plant Floor”, ISA Emerging Technologies Conference, Instrumentation Systems and Automation Society, Chicago, October 2002

Abstract:  Over the past ten years industrial control systems have seen a substantial increase in the use of computer networks to transfer information from the plant floor to supervisory and business computer systems. At the same time, there has been an explosion in the use of Ethernet and TCP/IP for process control functions. As a result, interfacing of industrial equipment is much easier, but there is now significantly less isolation from the outside world. Network security problems from the business network can be passed on to the process network through this business/process interface. Not only can this seriously impact critical industrial production, but there is also a considerable risk to human safety.

This paper evaluates the risks to industrial control systems from both accidental and malicious intrusion. The first portion summarizes an analysis of reported incidents in industrial environments and their effects on process systems. Second part of the report describes a series tests developed and conducted at the BCIT Internet Engineering Lab to determine possible security weaknesses in common programmable logic controllers (PLCs). Based on these results, a number of recommendations are presented on designing network security for critical industrial control installations.

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