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Switches, Spreadsheets and Network Security

Greater networking of packaging lines and other factory floor systems brings with it greater concerns about security. Experts say there are ways to handle those concerns, and that there are concerns you may never have thought of.

“When you connect your plant floor network to the office network, of course, you’re concerned about who should have access to the plant floor,” notes Jeremy Bryant, industrial networking specialist, Siemens Automation and Motion Division, Norcross, Ga. “Fortunately, there are ways to provide the needed security. For instance, you can use industrial firewall devices, which can simply be configured to control who is allowed to come in and out.” This, he says, is the same proven technology used on the business level, simply in an industrial form factor. “You can not only control who can come in and out, but also where they can go on your network. You can get as strict as you want.” Switches can be used to control unwanted broadcast traffic, says Bryant, “but make sure your switch has the proper functionality to handle multicast messaging. It’s not all that complex. You just have to make sure you have the right kind of switch.” “There are ways to handle broadcast traffic with firewalls and routers,” agrees David Bauman, technical director for OMAC, the Open Modular Architecture Control Users Group, but he stresses the need to be diligent about effectively segregating the plant floor from the office. “Many control systems, especially legacy systems, don’t have the level of security that you typically get

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