Belden Advocates Ethernet, Security, Wireless at Seminar

Oct. 17, 2014
Why would a longtime cable supplier support Ethernet, which uses fewer wires, and wireless that appears to use none?

Why would a longtime cable supplier support Ethernet, which uses fewer wires, and wireless that appears to use none? Because it's an intelligent company that knows it and its customers are really in the communications business.

"By 2015, there are going to be 16 billion connected devices, and by 2020 there are going to be 50 billion connected devices," says John Stroup, Belden's president and CEO. "The Internet of Things (IoT) and the industrial IoT will use increasingly intelligent network infrastructures, but this will create more risk and increase the need to protect those critical infrastructures and their data. That's why we're investing both organically and through acquisition in Ethernet, security and wireless—so we can help transform this interconnected world."

Such has been the counterintuitive, but nonetheless successful evolution of Belden and the Hirschmann, Lumberg, GarrettCom and Tofino networking divisions it's acquired in recent years. Most recently, all of their collaborative efforts, synergies and solutions were highlighted in presentations and exhibits at the Belden Industrial Ethernet Design Seminar on Sept. 22-23 at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Houston. 

In his industrial Ethernet presentation, Mark Wylie, Belden's global vertical market manager, reported there are 12 best practices for implementing it, including segmenting networks into physical subnets and into functional VLANs; connecting to the enterprise/IT level; fulfilling other switch requirements, such as Power over Ethernet (PoE) and video; specifying traffic control and quality of service of requirements; meeting IP protection ratings; and managing security, environmental needs, cables and connectors, overall network management software, and infrastructure lifecycle needs.

Belden demonstrated several managed Ethernet switches, firewalls and other products at its design seminar, including Eagle 30 that protects network perimeters, Eagle Tofino that secures zones in networks and Eagle 20 that protects remote access for external devices. 

Besides protecting against intrusions and attacks from outside, Scott Howard, Belden's commercial engineer, added in his address that industrial network security must also address that fact that 80% of incidents are unintentional. "Cybersecurity is also all about improving network reliability, reducing downtime, improving productivity and reducing operating costs," said Howard. "Unfortunately, many industrial networks can be vulnerable, soft targets even of they have firewalls because PLCs often need to run 24/7 without security updates; they're optimized for real-time operations and not for robust network connections; they often have multiple entry points that they don't know about; and they're poorly segmented so any viruses that do get in spread quickly."

Because the usual perimeter defenses aren't enough, Howard added that users need to cooperate with their contractors to jointly scan their network devices for vulnerable PCs; monitor high network loads for misconfigured or misbehaving components; employ IT-based pattern behavior matching; use whitelisting to help block any suspicious or unauthorized traffic; generate alerts and alarms; and set up more or doubled firewalls between functional zones to allow only authorized traffic.

"It's crucial to put all these security layers in place, but it's also important for users to realize that the lifecycle of assessing, implementing and maintaining security never ends," explained Howard.