Network security management in your factory

There is no doubt that network security for manufacturers is more of a top priority than ever. Control engineers are constantly looking for ways to avoid cyberattacks and put programs in place to help reduce security risks. Risks at the OT (Operations Technology) level are constantly changing, and maintaining the protection of a company’s operational technical infrastructure can seem time-consuming and costly. However, there are ways to keep a company’s products, assets, and processes safe in a concise and cost-effective way.

At the most basic level, one of the ways to provide security against outside hackers is to ensure that the correct industrial Ethernet switches are used. Some companies are content with essential levels of networking, opting for low-cost options. This will provide the bare necessities to run plant operations, usually in the form of an unmanaged industrial switch. These switches are a great option for networks with a control panel used for a plug-and-play option that has a fixed configuration. This approach eliminates any IT work that requires ciphers, channel prioritization, or creating a set of separate devices to handle traffic and data. The downside of unmanaged switches is that they provide no security features.

Companies with larger networks may want more than the basic functions of an unmanaged switch. With a slight increase in cost, the efficiency of a lean managed switch can give plant control engineers the peace of mind they need when running their systems. Lean managed switches can be configured to a company’s specifications, monitor settings, disable unused ports, configure and manage encryptions, and help protect the network and data from active threats. VLANs can also be installed to reduce security risks and help increase network performance.

Wago’s family of industrial Ethernet managed switches are designed to meet security and redundancy requirements, while being easy enough for factory technicians to maintain. Wago has focused on creating an intuitive interface for these switches, which include a diagnostic dashboard allowing for quick system troubleshooting, even if users have no computer knowledge. With each port configured for specific connections, transmission errors can be detected as well as incorrect connections or active threats. These switches are available with eight or 16 ports with two additional SFP slots to connect fiber optic cable for longer connections.

Kevin M. Risinger