Safety Instrumented Systems / Fieldbus / Cybersecurity

Cyber-Living. Are We Safe Enough?

We Think That the Security Settings We Put In Place Online Are Safe Enough, But the Reality Is That We All Are Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks

By Katherine Bonfante

Every day we spend more and more time in front of computers or mobile screens. We check our bank accounts, emails, family and friend's photos via our technologically advanced screens. We organize events online, and we get our news from websites, online videos and Twitter feeds.

Read Also: Bone Up on Safety Online

With all this information in the websphere, we don't really know how safe our private lives are anymore. We check in to places and make this information public, leaving our homes and personal property vulnerable to intruders. We use "highly secure" passwords, such as "password123," to protect our finances. We believe that the security settings we put in place on social media spaces are secure enough, but then once in a while we read reports that say X online institution was hacked and now our personal  information is floating in cyberspace. Yikes!

If security is tough for us, what about for corporations or industrial sites? Hackers love getting into places they are not welcome or expected. Our cybersecurity expert and blogger Joe Weiss has reported on many cybersecurity incidents in the process automation industry. If you want proof that we're vulnerable to cyber attacks, read his unfettered blog specifically his entry "Water System Hack—The System Is Broken" and "Are Nuclear Plants Cybersecure?".

Read Also: Are your security practices up to IT standards?

And reassurance is hard to find. This month our online exclusive is a report by Ralph Langner and Perry Pederson published by the Brookings Institution about risk management as a cyber defense tool called "Bound to Fail: Why Cybersecurity Risk Cannot Simply Be Managed Away."

Weiss read the report and says, "It suggests that using risk management as the approach to cybersecurity is not necessarily the best approach to addressing this issue. Neither is the recent approach in President Obama's Executive Order." Weiss adds that it's not a question of if you will experience a cyber incident, but when.

Our editor in chief Walt Boyes also chimed in. He said that automation professionals have an idea of the risks involved in the process industries, but little is known about how to efficiently secure our processes. "We have to worry about cyber accidents, but also malicious activity on the part of hackers from wherever they hail, in addition to simple accidents on the plant floor."

Read the Brookings Institution report along with our experts' commentary at Don't forget to let us know what you think of the report and if you agree with our experts' opinions.