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For many of us, interconnectivity, digitalisation, automatic control systems and other technological advances permeate both our work and play. What we may overlook is that the same tools we use on a daily basis to “optimise” our private lives have also been adapted to optimise industrial processes of every stripe. Today almost all process plants have industrial control systems (ICS) embedded in the various levels of the company’s digitalisation, from field devices (instruments, actuators, relays ...) to the highest level of corporate servers.

These systems can be used to remotely monitor and control worksites, acquiring and transmitting data without requiring personnel to travel long distances. The devices that make up an ICS can open and close valves and breakers, collect data from sensor systems and monitor the local environment. Within a single plant, an ICS can centrally control the various phases of production, gather and share data for quick access and find and remedy faults while reducing their overall impact. Efficiency is not the only advantage to an automated system. Worker health and safety also benefit from these systems’ ability to detect danger quickly and reliably.

However, no system is invulnerable. We have all experienced breakdowns in the technology we use in our personal lives. In an industrial context, a technology malfunction can lead to financial losses, asset damage, environmental consequences and even injury to humans or loss of life. The scale of the consequences can be massive and can also be the result of criminal activity that targets vulnerabilities in these automated, centralised cybersystems.

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