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Combating Cyber-Attacks Through Cyber Intelligence & Security: Part One

Hello and welcome to Part One of my new blog series discussing cyber intelligence and security around the critical infrastructure sectors in the U.S. Cyber-attacks are becoming increasingly prevalent and threatening to utilities, refineries, military defense systems, water treatment plants and other sectors of our critical infrastructure. Part One of this series details the dangers of cyber-attacks by state and non-state actors and how cyber intelligence can help organizations combat future cyber-attacks. Part Two will detail the role of data in cyber security and ways cyber intelligence can be gathered to further prevent attacks.

The New State of Cyber-Attacks

As technology advances so will the amount of cyber-attacks. Many companies play a vital role in their nation’s critical infrastructure and these companies are adopting digital systems to replace older, analog controls. This digitization of technology is helping operators obtain remote visibility and control over operations, including processes in refineries, the generation and transmission of power in the electrical grid, and the temperatures in nuclear cooling towers. In doing so, industrial facilities have become more efficient and productive.

However, the same digital hyper-connectivity that facility managers use to collect data and control machines and processes, also can serve as entry points for cyber attackers to get into system networks and steal or alter classified information, disrupt processes and cause damage to equipment. Many early control system breaches were random or accidental infections, but we’ve now entered a stage where kinetic attacks are becoming more prevalent, with industrial control systems becoming the object of targeted attacks.

Threats to a company’s information systems and assets could come from anywhere. State and non-state actors from around the globe are almost certainly targeting and possibly even penetrating the networks of energy providers and other critical infrastructures in the U.S. Effectively cyber criminals have loose alignment (affiliation) with state actors and now these criminals are beginning to use different methodologies, creating a huge challenge. Traditionally, we see malicious actions like zero-day attacks, Denial of Service attacks, (DoS) i.e. vulnerability attacks, bandwidth or connection flooding, stopping or delaying workflows and SQL Injections that help hackers exploit or steal data from organizations.

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Bit Stew and Cisco collaborate to bring intelligence and automation to the digital oil field

 

I caught up with Franco Castaldini, VP, Marketing at Bit Stew Systems to talk about Bit Stew and Cisco and wanted to know about where Bit Stew are going with product offerings, industry solutions, and customer  engagements. This is what he told me:

Franco Castaldini, VP, Marketing at Bit Stew Systems

Franco Castaldini, VP, Marketing at Bit Stew Systems

“It’s an exciting time for Bit Stew Systems as we extend our heritage in utilities into new markets such as the oil and gas industry. This week, the Bit Stew team is showcasing our MIx Solutions at the Entelec Spring Conference & Expo in Houston, Texas.

Bit Stew’s transformative MIx Core™ platform manages real-time industrial data at scale, automating the ingestion process, and utilizing machine intelligence both centrally and at the edge. Our MIx Director™ application (formerly Grid Director), harnesses the power of MIx Core, by building operator workbenches to provide industry-specific data models, search, reports, dashboards and so much more. MIx Director continues to serve as a container to plug-in MIx Apps™, which offers pre-built analytics, data adapters and visualizations that solve specific use cases that improve asset and operational performance.

Bit Stew majoring in Fog Computing with Cisco’s IOx Platform

With Cisco’s IOx® technology, Cisco’s field-based hardware devices such as the Cisco Connected Grid Router (CGR) and Integrated Services Router (ISR) bring a whole new level of capabilities to market. These devices are capable of hosting a guest operating platform where companies like Bit Stew can run our own applications like never before. Bit Stew is a member of the Cisco ‘Solutions Partner’ program.

Collaboration goes Beyond ‘Big Data’ and Drives Value

Bit Stew at Entelec

Bit Stew at Entelec

Bit Stew’s MIx Core takes full advantage of Cisco’s IOx technology, by embedding its core technology inside these Cisco fog devices, providing data analysis at the edge of the network and in cloud-based systems – all in real-time. Running MIx Core in the “fog” brings a significant new advantage for organizations that are dealing with massive amounts of data running on complex networks in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). This end-to-end visibility enables industrial companies to gain actionable insights from the network in order to manage risks, improve asset performance and increase uptime.

A Proven Track Record of Success

Together, Bit Stew and Cisco have worked collaboratively to bring fog technology to life at major utilities such as BC Hydro, a Canadian electric utility in the province of British Columbia, which first deployed smart meters in 2011. The successful and proven track record we have had together with utilities is now resonating with the upstream and midstream oil and gas markets. The response the Bit Stew and Cisco teams saw at Entelec this week has been exciting and we will have more to announce in the weeks ahead.

Take time to learn more about Bit Stew at www.bitstew.com and read our new blog the Bit View for more insights and commentary on the IIoT.”

Make sure you catch the interview with Bit Stew’s CEO, Kevin Collins here: Fog Computing Becomes Clearer with Cisco IOx Solution

You can read more about Bit Stew here: Cisco and Bit Stew Edge: Thought-Leadership_Cicso-and-Bit-Stew_Distributed-Intelligence-Unlocking-the-Benefits-of-the-Industrial-Internet.pdf (710 KB)

 

About Franco Castaldini
Franco Castaldini is an experienced marketing, sales and product management executive who has led go-to-market strategies for innovative startups to large global companies. Franco leads Bit Stew’s product marketing and management, marketing communications, and global go-to-market strategy for the company’s growth in the Industrial Internet market.

 

 

 

 

 

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Incidence Response – Safety, Reliability and Recovery for Industry and Workers

Dan O’Malley talks about Cisco Systems offerings that are resonating in the Energy Industry and elsewhere. Cisco helps customers pre-plan for storms and to respond to disasters with sophisticated collaboration and device connectivity enabling technologies.

Many new technologies enable worker safety and visibility using 2-way radios, smart devices, and mobile broadband “connecting people and devices and work crews together smartly over the internet”. In the video Dan talks about the challenges customers face and how Cisco is helping them get ‘positive business outcomes’.

Yes – I know what you mean – what does that really mean? Well, mother nature doesn’t always cooperate, so getting outages dealt with as quickly as possible is one positive outcome. Keeping in touch with workers, especially those in dangerous areas, and warning them if safety issues occur is another. And maybe even having ‘wearable’ biometric devices attached to workers to see how they’re doing physically, and monitoring their vitals in real time by operations centers. That’s another.

Just keeping track of field workers is a challenge – and making best use of a constrained ‘expert pool’ might be another. Some newer ‘millennial’ devices are, of course, part of the architectural approach, but so are traditional two-way radios and other devices – so that everyone can communicate and collaborate to get the job done. And it’s getting the job done that really gives good business outcomes – ask any customer!

So, in the words of Dan:

It’s about smartly connecting people, and devices and work-crews together smartly over the internet. That’s what we do.

…and providing the best business outcomes possible: Read More »

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Industrial Operations Kit shown off at San Diego Conference

You may already have seen the announcement of the Cisco Industrial Operations kit (if not you can read about it here: New Cisco Offerings Help Unlock the Industrial Value of the Internet of Things).

As organizations such as utilities, oil, gas and energy companies, and municipalities, look to leverage new IoT applications, demand is growing for a quick and simple way to deploy Field Area Network (FAN) pilots, as well as reduce the cost of deploying a secure network infrastructure for medium and small size deployments

Gaurav Agarwal, Technical Marketing Engineer, Vertical Solutions, Cisco, provides a short introduction to the Cisco Industrial Operations Kit and how it virtualizes deployment to reduce setup time to days for Field Area Networks and Industrial Networks.

It’s all about Cisco helping customers start to deploy multi-service FAN solutions quickly and more cost-effectively. By actually virtualizing secure network services on a single Cisco Unified Computing Server, the Industrial Operations Kit can now be deployed in a matter of days, instead of weeks (or, in some cases, saving months!).

It’s based on the Connected Grid Network Management System and plays a critical role in creating efficient, secure and affordable industrial architectures for small to midsize organizations and large field area network pilots.

Here’s what Kip Compton,  vice president of IoT Systems and Software, Cisco, had to say at the launch “The IE 4000 and Industrial Operations Kit demonstrate how Cisco is taking the lead in bringing IoT capabilities to customers of all sizes. The market is demanding new infrastructure capabilities, and Cisco’s leadership in Gigabit switching technologies and comprehensive, end-to-end field network deployment offerings puts us in a unique position to help organizations build out long term strategies that address the challenges of an IoT environment. We have developed these offerings to give customers the ability to accelerate their IoT innovations.”

For the technical amongst you, The kit includes a single headend router, bundled with Cisco PRIME Access Registrar software for authentication, authorization and accounting, and the Connected Grid Network Management System with Cisco Embedded Services Routers for zero-touch deployment, managing up to 300 industrial routers and 250,000 RF Mesh endpoints with a single server.

Jeff Carkhuff, vice president of global solutions marketing for electricity, Itron was quoted as saying: “…With the Cisco Industrial Operations Kit, we are able to offer our customers more choices to match their specific needs, giving them an easy path to more IoT-friendly environments.” Read More »

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Seeing is believing – Graphics Conference first day brings together industry players with Cisco

No longer just the domain of gamesters and young-at-heart, the graphics industry is now providing stunning performance to all sorts of industries such as manufacturing, finance, healthcare and design. Perhaps none more so though than the Oil and Gas Industry, as companies explore in harder-to-get-at places and dangers to workers are greater than ever. The GPU Technology  Conference in San Jose this week showed how far we’ve come in accelerating energy discoveries with less time spent travelling to far off dangerous environments.

So what’s it all about? Well, for starters four partners – Cisco, NetApp, NVIDIA and Citrix have got together to change the way users of high performance graphics applications can be used in remote and local environments. Normally geophysicists and geoscientists using, say, Schlumberger or Halliburton seismic analysis software use powerful (but expensive) workstations or have to work close to large central datacenters to get the kind of performance they need to get their applications running fast enough and their graphics visualizations looking smooth and not jittery.

That’s where the four partners come in. Putting it simply Cisco and NetApp provide a best-in-class virtualized data center with ‘Flexpod’, then NVIDIA provide high-performance  GPUs (Graphics Processor Units) that slot into the Flexpod (remember it’s based on Cisco UCS so have heaps of flexibility), and then remote users can access their graphics applications on inexpensive devices (even tablets!) using VDI (Virtual desktop infrastructure) software from Citrix. This is on show in various places in the Exhibit hall, including Cisco’s booth # 219.

What does it all mean? Well, for starters, really fast loading of the datasets – no waiting around in the break room for ages! Also – remote access to the analysis of the data – so the data never leaves the datacenter so better security. Add to that the possibility that scientists can now work together using Cisco and other collaboration tools, and productivity just got a shot-in-the-arm. The demo stowed the applications running remotely – performance was indistinguishable from running locally on expensive and cumbersome workstations or on local datacenters!

Folks at the booth were impressed. “Wow – that’s graphics visualization and analysis on steroids'” said one visitor. “We could really use that where I work” said another (yes, we’ll be following that one up!).

Other highlights today were Cisco presenting the benefits of UCS to a sizable audience, and Dassault Systems, an accomplished Cisco UCS user, talking about how they use NVIDIA GRID and CISCO UCS for Graphics Virtualization. Laurent Seror, Founder and CEO, Outscale, presents. Tomorrow we’ll hear from the Ford Motor Company with a presentation entitled ‘So you want to Deploy High Resolution Graphics Desktop Virtualization’. Chip Charnley, Technical Expert, Client Technologies, Ford Motor Company will review both the process of doing, and the results of the Proof of Concept for implementing XenApp and XenDesktop that was conducted jointly by Ford Motor Company, Citrix and Cisco. Read More »

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