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Edge Ask The Experts

3/11/2020
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I Want to Work in Industrial IoT Security. What Lingo Do I Need to Know?

Should you happen to be in a meeting with an ICS vendor, here are some terms you will need to know so as to not be laughed out of the room.

Question: I want to work in industrial IoT security. What lingo do I need to know?

Tanner Johnson, senior cybersecurity analyst at Omdia: The industrial IoT (IIoT) is a market in a state of major expansion. The adoption of IoT technology, and its incorporation into areas of manufacturing and critical infrastructure, introduces both significant challenges and opportunities. Should you happen to be in a meeting with an industrial control system (ICS) vendor, here are some terms you will need to know so as to not be laughed out of the room:

DCS: A Distributed Control System is a digital operations mechanism comprised of controllers distributed throughout the facility, and it is configured using various physical components to measure and control a specific process (known as a control loop). This design instructs the various system tasks to be performed in a sequential manner, allowing for greater automation by focusing on the execution of specific processes. These controllers can be a single, discrete component or a part of a larger complex function, such as a SCADA system.

SCADA: Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition is an operations mechanism designed for higher-level data collection, aggregation, and collation. While a DCS is driven by preprogrammed and automated sequential processes, SCADA systems are driven only by events, which in turn are programmed to trigger additional actions within the facility. This helps to reduce the load of information that needs to be managed by the host computer. Additionally, these systems can be deployed over long distances and cover large-scale processes at multiple locations. The various SCADA control actions are executed by RTUs or PLCs.

RTU: Remote Terminal Units are electronic devices designed to provide a means of interfacing various objects in the physical world with the digital components of a DCS or SCADA system. RTUs transmit telemetric information on the status and behaviors of connected objects within the facility to the control system. In turn, they are instructed on how to interact with the connected objects.

PLC: Programmable Logic Controllers are usually small digital computers designed for various configurations that offer both digital and analog inputs. Additionally, these devices can be hardened against harsh environments factors like temperature and electrical interference. Their high level of reliability, interoperability, and simplicity of programming make them desirable for large-scale environments.

These components comprise the foundation of our IIoT ecosystem, which is essential for an efficiently functioning critical infrastructure. As a result, it is essential that each of these components be protected from compromise. The disruption of services for the industrial market is not only costly, but under certain circumstances it can pose substantial risks to national security.

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