Paulius Dragunas Uw N Wj C1m Be Unsplash
Paulius Dragunas

Where Are the Risks in Your Connected Plant?

Anything connected poses a risk, whether it’s the smart thermostat in the front office fish tank, the numerous desktop printers used each day or the million-dollar piece of equipment producing key components on the plant floor. 

Case in point: Early this month, ethical hackers – specifically researchers at CyberNews – took control of nearly a million printers to clearly illustrate the dangers of connected, but unsecured devices. Lack of printer security is nothing new. However, that does not lessen the significance of the threat they post to organizations. The Fancy Bear hack last summer demonstrated the risk, spotlighting why heavily connected companies need to pay more attention what’s connected, why it is connected and what risk those connections represent to other areas within the business. After all, these common devices are often an open door to the networks powering other device within the enterprise.

In the most recent white hat hack, the only real consequence was printing a security manual to once again remind people of the importance of security. A bad actor could have gone much deeper within the organization, stealing vital information or infusing ransomware with the ability to totally cripple most businesses. 

Equipment is not the only risk

In the attempted Tesla attack, the hackers specifically targeted an employee as the potential weakest link. While this attempt had positive results for Tesla, that is not always the case. This is especially true when manufacturers fail to properly train employees to identify and report threats.

Alex Schlager the executive director and chief product officer of security services at Verizon Business tells IndustryWeek, the Verizon 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), this year there was over 922 incidents with 381 being confirmed data disclosure cases.

“Overall, 8% of breaches involved misuse by authorized users - actions, which are intentional actions undertaken by internal employees that result in some form of security incident. In the manufacturing industry, the DBIR found that misuse was present in 13% of breaches and was one of the top three threat patterns,” says Schlager. “Employees who were found misusing their access to steal remains a concern for the industry. Different misuse types in manufacturing breaches include: privilege abuse, the actor has legitimate access but they use those privileges to do something nefarious—and data mishandling – for example, sending company data via personal email.” 

Next steps

Data breaches are becoming a bigger concern for companies as they face continuous vulnerabilities within their online infrastructure, explains Schlager.

The following are recommendations that would be applicable to manufacturers according to the 2020 DBIR:

  • Use continuous vulnerability management systems to find and remediate things like code-based vulnerabilities.
  • Implement email and web browser protection to lock down browsers and email clients to give your users a fighting chance when facing the internet.
  • Provide security awareness and training programs to educate your users, both on malicious attackers and on accidental breaches.
Sense Aware Id Small Lean 4x6@300dpi
FedEx SenseAware

Time for Tracking to Improve?

Whenever a vaccine is ready for distribution to the global population, its distribution is sure to create an entirely new batch of challenges. Accurate tracking that goes beyond the traditional scanning that many logistics providers leverage will prove instrumental, especially as security concerns surface. 

To combat these challenges FedEx recently announced the launch of SenseAware ID, a lightweight sensor-based logistics device that delivers a new level of precision tracking. The enhanced location visibility provided by this technology will create opportunities for FedEx customers to reimagine their supply chain through real-time updates on a package’s location within the FedEx Express network. SenseAware ID will improve the safety, security and timeliness of deliveries – key attributes for packages that contain critical contents such as life-saving pharmaceuticals and emergency medical supplies.

The detailed location data provided by SenseAware ID is a critical differentiator for healthcare industry customers, and FedEx expects to use this new technology with anticipated COVID-19 vaccine shipments. The rollout of SenseAware ID is well-timed as FedEx continues to move life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for healthcare customers throughout the U.S.

“Package tracking and visibility are more important now than ever, as businesses have become increasingly reliant on timely deliveries,” said Robert B. Carter, executive vice president and chief information officer, FedEx Corporation. “Created by our innovation teams at FedEx, SenseAware ID was designed to give our customers the precise level of tracking they’ve been looking for, enabling them to optimize their supply chains and make any necessary adjustments during the journey of their shipments.”

Sense AwareFedEx SenseAwareFedEx has long been a pioneer in sensor-based logistics, providing advanced tracking of urgent and high value shipments for over a decade through its proprietary SenseAware portfolio. SenseAware ID is the latest innovation in FedEx sensor technology, designed to make sensor-based logistics more accessible to FedEx customers.

SenseAware ID uses a lightweight, compact sensor that transmits precise package location data every two seconds via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to WiFi access points or established gateway devices throughout the FedEx Express network. Packages equipped with the SenseAware ID sensor are tracked hundreds of times versus dozens of times with traditional package scanning protocols, which provides an unprecedented amount of real-time data about the location of the shipment.

As part of the initial roll-out, SenseAware ID sensors are being applied to First Overnight shipments within the U.S. domestic FedEx Express network. An initial round of customers in the healthcare, aerospace and retail industries will receive access to the enhanced data in November 2020. FedEx expects to expand access to this precision location data to additional customers throughout the first half of 2021. SenseAware ID will eventually be made available for a broad range of premium FedEx Express services.

The enhanced package visibility data provided by SenseAware ID will give FedEx healthcare customers the opportunity to closely monitor and proactively protect shipments using additional FedEx healthcare services, including cold-chain storage, thermal blankets and temperature controlled containers. SenseAware ID is expected to play a critical role in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines using the FedEx First Overnight service, helping ensure these sensitive shipments are delivered quickly and safely.