Wireless technology opens up manufacturers to security risks

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Manufacturers' increasing use of wireless technology is improving productivity but also increasing security risks, warns IHS Technology.

IHS predicts that wireless network connections for industrial automation will rise from 2.1 million in 2012 to 3.4 million by 2017.

These connections open up the factory to the risk of malware infection. In some cases, attackers have infected manufacturing operations and then blackmailed the company in order to remove the malware, relates IHS.

In addition, the growing BYOD trend in manufacturing is exposing sensitive corporate data to loss or theft.

"The rising use of wireless networks and industrial Ethernet is leading to a growing trend in the so-called bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement in the manufacturing business, with workers utilizing their own smartphones and tablets to monitor and control industrial equipment," says Mark Watson, associate director for industrial automation group at IHS.

"However, such devices may lack adequate security, offering hackers easy access to confidential data--or allowing them to spread malware through factory automation systems," he adds.

To counter these security threats, manufacturers are taking various steps, including setting up "honeypots," sites that appear a legitimate component of the manufacturing network but are in fact isolated and designed to gather information about hackers.

Two major industrial wireless protocols are WirelessHART and ISA 100.11a, which are more widely used in industrial processes than wireless location area network Bluetooth, while WLAN and Bluetooth are more commonly used in discrete industries, explains IHS.

For more:
- read IHS' analysis

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