Cisco Blogs


Cisco Blog > Internet of Everything

Building Professional Skills for the Internet of Things

August 7, 2014 at 7:30 am PST

In my conversations with our customers and partners, one of most frequent topics is the need of aligning the skills of the Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT) professionals to the new capabilities offered by Internet of Things (IoT) related technologies and solutions, and the changing conditions and demands of the business.

There is plenty of training in the market about configuring and maintaining all the new smart objects that are coming to the market. But the specific nature of these devices radically changes the way the essential infrastructure that is needed to interconnect them should be planned, designed, deployed and maintained. These are not traditional networks.

The IoT network infrastructure for all these new “things” has to deal with several new challenges. For one, IoT devices are not traditional computing devices. There are literally hundreds of different protocols used by these devices.  They may have very specific needs in terms of speed and frequency of connectivity.  Many of them are super susceptible to changes in delay and latency, some of them connect intermittently, while some others just come in range from time to time.  Many operate 24x7 under the harshest conditions, and a lot of them where designed to operate in hierarchical and closed loop networks.

Read More »

Tags: , , , , ,

Writing a new chapter of my story: Taking on the Internet of Things opportunity at Cisco

This week I’m excited to participate in an event we are organizing in Chicago, home of the 2014 Internet of Things World Forum.  We’re meeting with some of our partners and customers as we make a few joint announcements – including a new IoE Innovation Center in Barcelona, and showcasing some new solutions built on our platform by some of our partners. Additionally, I’m getting a preview of some of the amazing smart & connected deployments in Chicago – a preview for the IoT World Forum.

I am writing this blog as I gear up to lead Cisco’s Internet of Things (IoT) Systems & Software Group. Over the last few weeks I’ve spent time getting to know the group and have been struck by the tremendous energy and focus on customers and partners the team has.  I’m also excited about how dynamic the Internet of Things space is.

While we’ve calculated the total economic value at stake for Internet of Everything by 2020 – $19T – and the number of potential connected devices – 50B – these nearly unfathomable numbers may, honestly, not pan out exactly to the decimal.  The Internet of Everything could be smaller or, more likely, much much larger – but the overall point is that more and more people, process, data, and things are connecting.  Professor Michael Nelson of Georgetown University has said that “Trying to determine the market size for the Internet of Things is like trying to calculate the market for plastics, circa 1940.”  At that time it would have been nearly unfathomable for the numbers of existing things – milk containers, furniture, industrial components – to be made into plastic.  And just as plastics have pervaded every part of our lives and enabled new industries, the connections created by Internet of Everything will too. I think that’s a great way to think about the untapped potential of this market. Read More »

Tags: , , , , , ,

HAVEX Proves (Again) that the Airgap is a Myth: Time for Real Cybersecurity in ICS Environments

July 3, 2014 at 7:00 am PST

The HAVEX worm is making the rounds again. As Cisco first reported back in September 2013, HAVEX specifically targets supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), industrial control system (ICS), and other operational technology (OT) environments. In the case of HAVEX, the energy industry, and specifically power plants based in Europe, seems to be the primary target. See Cisco’s security blog post for technical details on this latest variant.

When I discuss security with those managing SCADA, ICS and other OT environments, I almost always get the feedback that cybersecurity isn’t required, because their systems are physically separated from the open Internet. This practice, referred to in ICS circles as the “airgap”, is the way ICS networks have been protected since the beginning of time; and truth be told, it’s been tremendously effective for decades. The problem is, the reality of the airgap began to disappear several years ago, and today is really just a myth.

Today, networks of all types are more connected than ever before. Gone are the days where only information technology (IT) networks are connected, completely separated from OT networks.  OT networks are no longer islands unto themselves, cut off from the outside world. Technology trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT) have changed all of that. To gain business efficiencies and streamline operations, today’s manufacturing plants, field area networks, and other OT environments are connected to the outside world via wired and wireless communications – in multiple places throughout the system! As a result, these industrial environments are every bit as open to hackers and other cyber threats as their IT counterparts. The main difference, of course, is that most organizations have relatively weak cybersecurity controls in these environments because of the continued belief that an airgap segregates them from the outside world, thereby insulating them from cyber attacks. This naivety makes OT environments an easier target.

The authors of HAVEX certainly understand that OT environments are connected, since the method of transmission is via a downloadable Trojan installed on the websites of several ICS/SCADA manufacturers. What’s considered a very old trick in the IT world is still relatively new to those in OT.

It’s absolutely essential that organizations with ICS environments fully understand and embrace the fact that IT and OT are simply different environments within a single extended network. As such, cybersecurity needs to be implemented across both to produce a comprehensive security solution for the entire extended network. The most important way to securely embrace IoT is for IT and OT to work together as a team. By each relinquishing just a bit of control, IT can retain centralized control over the extended network – but with differentiated policies that recognize the specialized needs of OT environments.

We’ll never completely bulletproof our systems, but with comprehensive security solutions applied across the extended network that provide protection before, during, and after an attack, organizations can protect themselves from most of what’s out there. A significant step in the right direction is to understand that the airgap is gone forever; it’s time to protect our OT environments every bit as much as we protect our IT environments.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Summary: The Extended Network Requires Security That’s the Same, Only Different

April 23, 2014 at 6:40 am PST

Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) networks have historically been completely separate, with users of each living in blissful isolation. But the Internet of Things (IoT) is changing all of that! In the IoT paradigm, IT and OT professionals will need to work together to drive pervasive security across the extended network. The same security tools will need to be applied consistently across the extended network, but with differentiated policy enforcement to account for differences between the two environments.

Read the full blog post to learn more.

Tags: , ,

Energy Networking Convergence Part 1 – The Journey From Serial to IP

This is the first of a four part series on the convergence of IT and OT (Operational Technologies)

Part 2 will cover the impact of the transition to IP on Physical Security and the convergence of Physical and Cyber Security.

Part 3 will discuss the convergence of IT and OT -- Operational Technology of all types outside the traditional realm of Information Processing.

Part 4 will look at how to actually make the transition to a converged IT/OT infrastructure and tips on overcoming the challenges.

Those of us in the Energy Industry know that the utilities segment is in transition. The network architecture, in particular,  is undergoing change -- change that will bring challenges as well as opportunities for both Cisco and our customers.

Almost every communication application started as point to point serial — including computer communications.  But the simple geometry problem of how many lines are needed to connect every vertex (node) of a polygon to every other vertex [ n(n-3)/2 if you’re curious ] shows that as the number of nodes grows, connecting each one to every other one quickly becomes infeasible.

HAK22620 - for webThe need to interconnect more and more devices lead to multi-drop or bus topologies and challenges of how to deal with sorting out who gets to talk when and the solutions of token passing, polling and TDM.

Circuit switching was a big breakthrough developed out of necessity as the number of telephone handsets exploded. Interestingly enough, look at the hierarchical topology of trunking and local switching and you may recognize analog similarity to NAT.

Initial application of networking often occurs as the use of Ethernet to replace serial communication with flat, layer-2 networks, to interconnect multiple nodes with polling and TDM used exactly as they were in serial systems.  That’s where most SCADA systems still live today and why there are relatively few monitored points, limited by how quickly the polling loop can be traversed.  Imagine trying to run the internet that way?

Fast forward and almost every industry and industrial application that started off as serial or circuit switched has migrated or is migrating to packet switched as IP packet technology has made astonishing progress along the price/performance curve.

High performance IP is now able to offer latency performance that used to require dedicated connections.  Along with IP have come the tools to manage, diagnose, repair and secure the communication network.  Relative to the billions of dollars invested by companies around the world in tools, security, management, etc. for IP, the investments being made in securing and improving serial or TDM are almost nonexistent.

Globally, Service Providers who built their industry on circuit switched analog and TDM are terminating those services as they move to complete their transition to IP.

Cisco continues to play a key role in transitioning serial/TDM technology to IP, helping customers get full benefit of the robust performance and security capabilities and features IP offers.  Customers who have received End of Service notices for Framerelay are scrambling to find alternatives and at the same time achieve regulatory compliance.

As Operation Technology groups outside of IT increasingly use IT Information & Communication Technology (ICT), they need the same capabilities as IT.

What does this mean for Cisco and our customers?

Relationships with the business, including the operations side of the business are key.  Budget is increasingly in the hands of the business rather than IT. As a result, Cisco and our customers’  IT departments are increasingly collaborating with the operational side of the business -- especially the OT, or ‘Operational Technologies’ part of our customer’s organization.

Cisco has specialized industry sales support teams in a group called CVA (Cisco Value Acceleration) Group, which I’m a part of, as well as Cisco Advanced Services and other Cisco Business Units (especially the IOTG, or Internet of Things Group) along with groups such as the Cisco Global Industries Center of Expertise (GICE) to understand the trends, business imperatives and compelling events creating opportunity with customers.

If you’d like to know more about these groups, Read More »

Tags: , , , , , , , ,