Control News from Europe

Here are excerpts from the November 2007 issue of Andrew Bond’s Industrial Automation Insider, a monthly newsletter covering the important industrial automation news and issues as seen from the U.K.

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Significantly there are also proposals to require malevolent and unauthorized actions to be considered during hazard and risk analysis, although actual security policies are seen as being outside the scope of the standard. Instead references to more authoritative security standards will be made.

Professionally Developed Toolkit for Cyber Crime

Latest edition of cyber security specialist Symantec’s biannual Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR) reveals cyber criminals becoming ever more professional and commercial in the development, distribution and use of malicious code and services. ISTR Volume XII, which covers the six months from January 1 to June 30, 2007, specifically reports an increase in cyber criminals leveraging sophisticated toolkits to carry out malicious attacks. It quotes the example of MPack, which is described as “a professionally developed toolkit sold in the underground economy.” Purchasers of MPack are able to deploy a collection of software components to install malicious code on computers around the world and then monitor the success of the attack through various metrics on its online, password-protected control and management console.

Symantec also cites MPack as an example of the previously reported growing trend towards coordinated attacks in which cyber criminals deploy a combination of malicious activities.

ISTR highlights an increase in the number of multi-staged attacks over the reporting period. These consist of an initial attack that is not itself intended to perform malicious activities immediately, but is used to deploy subsequent attacks. One such example is a “staged downloader” that allows attackers to change the downloadable component to any type of threat that suits their objective.

A total of 28 of the top 50 malicious code samples observed in the period were staged downloaders, one example being Peacomm Trojan, which is mostly known as Storm Worm. This staged downloader was also the most widely reported new malicious code family during the reporting period.

“In the last several Internet Security Threat Reports, Symantec discussed a significant shift in attackers motivated from fame to fortune,” said Symantec Security Response and Managed Services senior vice president Arthur Wong. “The Internet threats and malicious activity we are currently tracking demonstrate that hackers are taking this trend to the next level bymaking cyber crime their actual profession, and they are employing businesslike practices to successfully accomplish this goal.”

The ISTR data comes from more than 40,000 sensors deployed in more than 180 countries as well as a database of more than 22,000 vulnerabilities affecting more than 50,000 technologies from more than 8,000 vendors.

Avery Weigh-Tronix Exits Retail to Focus on Industry

Birmingham, U.K.-based industrial and retail weighing specialist Avery Weigh-Tronix has sold its food retail weighing business, Avery Berkel, to Glenview, Ill.-based ITW (Illinois Tool Works) Inc. The sale comes almost exactly a year after Avery Weigh-Tronix itself was the subject of a management-buyout backed with Euro 123m of funding from private equity fund European Capital.

The divested company will continue to trade as Avery Berkel and will continue to be based at the same headquarters as Avery Weigh-Tronix in Smethwick near Birmingham. Heading up the new entity is John Watson, formerly the head of Avery Berkel U.K. and Avery Berkel North America. Some 300 people in the U.K. and a further 150 worldwide have transferred to the new company, which has operations in Ireland, France, Germany, Austria and the U.S., as well as selling its products through distributors in other parts of the world.

Divesting the retail operation will allow “Avery Weigh-Tronix to focus on manufacturing, selling and servicing weighing technology for our key customers,” explained Avery Weigh-Tronix CEO Jerry Bowe. “We have always worked in partnership with our industrial customers, but now we can now focus solely on their needs and gear our research and development to helping them become more efficient.”

The divestment comes at a time when the company is introducing a number of new products and solutions including onboard weighing technology using digital load cells and new software solutions. Avery Weigh-Tronix has manufacturing facilities in the U.K., U.S., Canada, Malaysia,
India and China and counts Heinz, Premier Foods, Glaxo Smithkline, Tarmac, Aggregate Industries and UPS among its customers.

ARC Monopoly on Automation Space May Be Waning

A quote from an ARC analyst has long been mandatory for any press release announcing a new automation product, solution or service. Now however, it’s beginning to look as if ARC’s monopoly of this sector might be under threat. With the convergence of the IT and automation worlds in the MES space, some vendors are beginning to look elsewhere for their endorsements. Californian MES specialist Incuity, for example, quotes not just one, but two AMR Research analysts in the press release announcing the latest versionof its IncuityEMI business intelligence product.

Version 2.5 now offers point and click configuration of the Unified Production Model, SQL Server Stored Procedure access to all connected control and business data sources and enhanced internal “Incuity” tags to simplify integration of manually entered data. Commenting on the new release, Alison Smith, senior research analyst at AMR Research, says, “Traditional BI systems are good at contextualizing summary transaction data, but fall short with high-resolution, real-time data. Adding intelligence in manufacturing involves higher resolution data, which requires data/object models that can accurately reflect each manufacturing operation within the enterprise.”

Meanwhile, presumably with a weather eye on existing and potential investors, Laura McCaughey, who is managing director of something called the AMR Research Investment Research Strategies Group, says “Manufacturing operations intelligence is a critical decision support tool that is rapidly becoming a necessity for global companies trying to balance profitable manufacturing practices against variability in their supply base and in their target markets. Incuity is going after the operations intelligence market, which is just starting to heat up, and it has early mover advantage. The company understands the problems that its clients are trying to solve and can speak the language of the space they’re going after.” Which, presumably means, when translated, “Don’t just buy the product; buy the company.”

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