‘Smarter’ water, power systems raise pressure on operators

The people in charge of managing our critical infrastructure — electricity grids, water systems and oil and gas networks — are finding it harder to keep up with ever-growing demands in security, compliance and operations.

Part of the reason is that more of their responsibilities are tied to IT networks. In other words, critical infrastructure is getting smarter and more internet-like. Corporate managers also tend to have different views about how automation is evolving, making it harder for critical infrastructure operators to juggle all the tasks they handle.

These are just some of the findings from a global survey by Industrial Defender, an organization focused on security and compliance for automation systems. The survey polled 134 professionals in charge of managing critical infrastructure systems.

“Modernization efforts, such as SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) upgrades, migrations away from proprietary protocols, and new markets such as smart grid, have led to a proliferation of industrial endpoints,” the Industrial Defender report states. “According to the survey results, critical infrastructure operators believe the environment will become even more complex: more than 50% of respondents expect industrial endpoints to increase by 50% or more over the next 3-5 years.”

The growing levels of “smart” in critical systems will require the people operating those systems to become similarly innovative in not just what they work with, but in how they work, according to Industrial Defender. 

“These findings clearly point to important trends of blurring boundaries, increased complexity, overlapping responsibilities and constrained resources: trends that will undoubtedly drive innovation,” the report concludes. “Thus, critical infrastructure owners should seek and embrace new, emerging administrative and technical innovations that respond to these trends by offering more effective and efficient management of the common elements underlying security, compliance and operations.”

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