Not in My Network! Copper Clad Aluminum is a Recipe for Failure

Editor’s Note: This week we have a post from a guest blogger! Greg Deitz is a networking cable product manager for Belden.CCA

Last month, Paul Kish blogged about counterfeit cable and connectivity, the risks and how to identify these subpar components. As stated in that blog, purchasing well-known brands of cable and connectivity from reputable manufacturers like us is the best protection against counterfeit components.

Purchasing Belden cable is also the best protection against copper clad aluminum (CCA) cables, which unfortunately have become a growing problem in the market.

What is CCA?

Composed of an inner aluminum core and outer copper cladding, CCA cables are often used for voice coils in headphones or loudspeakers, as well as for some RF and bonding and grounding applications.

Significantly lighter than pure copper and yet stronger than pure aluminum, CCA cables have been used for some electrical applications to avoid issues inherent with aluminum wire connections and also because they are less expensive than pure copper.   Unfortunately, CCA cables have also become a cheap replacement for category twisted-pair communications cables, but they should not be deployed in a network infrastructure. CCA cables are not compliant with UL and TIA standards, both of which required solid or stranded copper conductors.

What are the Concerns?

First of all, CCA cables have poor flexibility that can cause breakage. Read more »

Get In The Zone

casinoSupported by both TIA commercial and data center standards, fiber zone cabling has been around for a while as a viable means for improving manageability, flexibility, scalability and security in a variety of applications—from the casino floor to the data center.

Let’s take another look at the practice of fiber zone cabling and its benefits, applications and considerations.

Active in the Horizontal

In the horizontal space, fiber zone cabling logically places connectivity to support a group of devices or work areas. Rather than deploying multiple long home-run copper cables from the closet to each device, active zones involve fewer runs of fiber from the closet to a switch in the zone and then shorter runs of copper that extend from the switch to each device.

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Where might we see this deployed? Think of an open office with various work areas or cubicles segregated by department or function, a casino floor with several zones or pods of slot machines, or even a stadium with point-of-sale (POS) machines in one area to support food and beverage vendors.

Read more »

Customization: A Data Center Trend Worth Watching

customizationWith the increase in consolidation, intensive virtualization and outsourcing, the traditional data center environment with common brand-name equipment and conventional architectures is quickly shifting to the “hyperscale” data center of tomorrow.

These hyperscale data centers put the demand for customization on the rise. Let’s take a look at this trend worth watching.

The White Box Affect

Typically associated with cloud computing and the super data centers owned by the likes of Facebook, Google and Amazon, hyperscale computing environments often encompass millions of stripped-down virtual servers that are customized for specific needs.

One obvious indicator of this customization is the growth over the past few years of the ODM (Original Design Manufacturers) server market and the decline among big server vendors like Dell, HP and Lenova, as well as IBM’s recent decision to get out of the server market altogether—collectively something I refer to as the “white box affect.”

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Time to Pay Attention to the NIST Guide to ICS Security

Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by Ernie Hayden of Securicon LLC, an expert in industrial controls security, especially for the power utility industry.

About 6 months ago I wrote an article for this blog about the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. The article described how the framework came to be, what it is, what it is supposed to do and what you should do about it.

If you have any interest in industrial cyber security you will want to download the latest version of the framework and have it on hand for reference. If you are in one of 16 critical infrastructure industries (shown in a table in this earlier article), or if you rely on any of them for your success, your organization needs to go one step further and become familiar with its content.

In this article I am going to discuss the newly revised ICS Security Guideline – NIST 800-82 Rev. 2 – and offer some useful thoughts on it.

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4 Big Trends that Impact Industrial Automation and What To Do About Them, Part 2 of 2

In Part 1 of this series I described 4 big trends affecting manufacturing and pointed out the challenges and opportunities with each of them, at a high level. The 4 big trends are the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Cloud Computing and Industry 4.0.

The technologies related to these trends are available today. Like the Good Witch tells Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz , “You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas”…or, in our case, take full advantage of the opportunities these trends support. Instead of clicking your heels together though, there are a number of steps to take to realize business benefits.

In this article I am going to describe these steps and also present some ideas of how the 4 big trends might be used by forward thinking organizations.

Step 1 – Move from Ad Hoc to Industrial Ethernet Infrastructure

The first thing to do is make sure your network is well-designed and that it lets you scale-up dramatically, easily and reliably. If you’re like most, you’ve been moving to industrial Ethernet and away from fieldbuses. You’ve found Ethernet to be big, fast, and pretty forgiving.

Chances are, however, that your network has grown ad-hoc but just keeps working. As your network grows, you’ll need to evolve to a design that includes segmentation, security and redundancy in the right places, along with easy network management and expansion.

For more information on this, see my Automationworld article “Here’s Your Sign … That It May be Time to Turn Your Ad Hoc Network Into a Real Infrastructure”. Also, Belden resources for helping with this are listed at the bottom of this article.

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What the BYOD Controversy Can Teach Us about Good SCADA Security Policy

If you are a regular follower of this blog, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been writing much in the past few months. I just have been too busy, traveling and speaking at some really great security conferences.

The most recent and the most informative (for me at least) was the International NCSC One Conference 2014 at the World Forum in The Hague. This is a massive and well organized event run by the Netherlands National Cyber Security Centre, the Dutch equivalent to the US-CERT. Close to 950 people listened to my talk on “The Internet of Insecure Things”

During NCSC One I heard some great talks on the state of encryption technology today, SCADA Security consortium and foreign APT threats. But the highlight was the plenary speech by Jon Callas on the second day entitled “Security and Usability in the age of Surveillance”. Jon’s talk focused on Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) security, but it raised some questions that are core to cyber security in the 21st century.

If you’re not familiar with the BYOD security debate and want to get some background, check out my blog on the topic - The iPhone is coming to the Plant Floor – Can we Secure it?. The short version is that the BYOD controversy revolves around the possible security issues that arise when employees use their personal mobile devices to access privileged company resources.

A common example is using your iPhone to access your company’s email system – does this increase or decrease corporate security?

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Attention Control System Integrators: Windows XP is a Big Opportunity

System Integrators play an important role in helping manufacturers benefit from industrial automation technologies. They design and implement sophisticated control systems and their expertise, project management skills and manpower help companies achieve advances that cannot be realized with internal resources.

If your company is a System Integrator or Control System Integrator then you have likely been building up your expertise in the area of industrial cyber security as demand for services related to this topic has grown.

In fact today I am participating in a webinar for the Control System Integrators Association. It’s about how to help companies reduce the operational risk created by the end of service (EOS) for the Windows XP operating system. The webinar is at 11am EST today, and you can still register for it. If you miss the webinar, this article provides an overview of what I will be saying.

Windows XP EOS is a BIG Opportunity

Windows XP has been the workhorse operating system for factories, energy facilities and many critical infrastructure systems around the world. The operating system runs important manufacturing, process and production applications on the plant floor, in the field as well as in control rooms and engineering offices. It is also embedded in thousands of devices that control many factory automation and process control operations.

With Microsoft ceasing to provide the security updates and “hot fixes” that were routinely available before April 8, 2014, computers and other devices are more vulnerable to security risks and viruses. The EOS of Windows XP places industrial users in a very uncomfortable position.

The risk of security issues and resultant downtime will steadily increase over time. Yet the cost of upgrading or replacing Windows XP-based systems, and particularly the cost of the associated disruption to operations, is often prohibitive.

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5 Things You Need to Know About Counterfeit Cable and Connectivity

There are many reasons to purchase well-known brands of cable and connectivity from reputable manufacturers like Belden who have a strong industry presence.

Verified performance and a comprehensive warranty program like Belden’s 25-Year Warranty can help ensure that your network will perform as expected.

According to a recent article by the Communications Cable & Connectivity Association (CCCA), of which Belden is a participating member, there is another reason to go with a reputable manufacturer—avoiding counterfeit cable and connectivity that can pose risks too real to ignore.

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Let’s summarize the key points for you here.

What Constitutes Counterfeit Cable and Connectivity?

Counterfeit cables are those that are sold under false pretenses, essentially falsifying that they are compliant with safety and performance standards.

For example, counterfeit cables might include bogus marks and labels on their packaging or on the cable legend that indicates they are UL listed, ETL verified by Intertek or compliant with TIA 568-C specifications. In other words, counterfeit cables are purposely meant to deceive.

Read more »

4 Big Trends that Impact Industrial Automation and What To Do About Them, Part 1 of 2

Every decade has its big manufacturing trends and hyped-up IT issue(s). Remember Y2K? Nowadays there are several topics that have been the subject of numerous articles in manufacturing trade publications. These include:

The Internet of Things (IoT)

  • Big Data
  • Cloud Computing
  • Industry 4.0.

All of these trends involve a lot of devices networked together and a lot of data available to do things. They also include deciding whether data is stored and applications accessed from the computer next to you or from a server located somewhere else.

The good news is: The supporting technologies behind all the buzzwords are already available. Are they empty hype, a valid threat, or an opportunity? (the answer is yes). In this article, I’ll tackle each of these topics one by one, focusing on what you need to know to sort out reality and react to each.

1. Connected Industrial Devices aka the Internet of Things (IoT)

The IoT is about a lot of industrial devices networked together. For example, I’ve encountered automotive plants with 8,000 devices on a single network and consumer products plants with 12,000.

The benefits of networking these devices include:

  • Managing everything from anywhere.
  • Reducing complexity and hardware costs with one network technology.
  • Moving control and information at will.
  • Expanding it all easily.

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PLC Security: Protect Uptime from Windows XP Risk

If your job mandate includes maintaining uptime then network security is an area you can’t afford to ignore. In the industrial space the biggest risk comes from accidental network introductions, such as a virus introduced by a supplier or an employee via a USB drive. Once that happens, your manufacturing or process control operations could be in jeopardy.

In the two videos in this article I explain how cyber security risk is different in the industrial environment than in the IT or office environment. I then zero in on how risk has been increased with the end of service for Windows XP and I explain how industrial firewalls can help.

Preserve Uptime by Minimizing Industrial Cyber Security Risk

CIBP Network Security

Cyber security for industrial networks focuses on preserving uptime by guarding against accidental introductions of viruses or malware. (1:10)

Read more »

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