Plant & Works Engineering
Evolution of asset security
Published:  02 January, 2018

The evolution of asset security definition means a multi-faceted approach is needed. PWE reports.

While asset security once simply covered the assets within an organisation, such as equipment, the increase in data gathered - Big Data - and stored in a variety of ways has taken asset security beyond the physical. On top of this, the increasing requirements of large companies, for whom traceability is key, presents a duty to those in process industries to restrict data and equipment access. It is clear therefore that asset security is an area that warrants a multi-faceted approach.

Furthermore, with the major overhaul the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will be implemented on 25th May, 2018 – despite Brexit – compliance in this area will rely heavily on security. Organisations in a variety of sectors - including manufacturing and engineering - will need to ensure they invest in the right security to protect assets which could include equipment, data or sensitive information such as product patents, from risk.

Access security

If the right physical security isn’t implemented, access to equipment is increased, as well as risk to data held within that equipment or site. Therefore, it is important to ensure the right measures are in place to stop unauthorised access into premises in the first instance. Manufacturers such as Abus, with which RS works, offers a wide range of key or combination operated padlocks that provide a first defence in security. Millennials might prefer a smart padlock such as the Master Lock Bluetooth that allows them to use their smart phone to unlock it as well as control access to it. Whilst a seemingly small consideration, it is an important element in the wider security picture. Making small steps to make unauthorised access more difficult is key to effective security.

Advances in access control systems has made this another crucial security element. Keypad entry, video entry and fingerprint readers are all effective technologies used in access control systems to block unwanted visitors. RS works with TDSi – a leading manufacturer of integrated access control systems, whose software works on an open platform. It is one of the few providers whose software isn’t proprietary and so can be integrated with other makes of hardware.

CCTV is also effective, but there are some key considerations here. Firstly, there is a legal requirement to publicise the fact CCTV is being used on the premises – so adequate warnings need to be placed in the area. There is also the matter of quality. There is little point in investing in equipment that records substandard images. Choosing equipment from reputable providers, will mean access to the latest technology and highest specifications when it comes to quality recorded images. Additionally, there are systems available that are suitable for use in a variety of environments – with anti-corrosion and even explosion-proof options.

Limiting access

There are a range of technologies to help protect equipment and data within process environments and help ensure only authorised personnel can gain access. The CCTV technologies previously mentioned can be as important within the building as they can outside of it. For food and beverage manufacturers working with large customers, for instance, putting in place measures such as CCTV to facilitate traceability can often be a mandatory measure imposed by large companies, to ensure that only the authorised people can access certain parts of the production line. This is another example of where high quality recordings would be necessary, as in the event of having to trace a part of the process, it would be important to have clear footage.

Similarly, TDSi’s software could allow security features of a machine to be controlled by/in conjunction with the access control system. This would mean no one could access a machine without clearance. Authorised personnel could create the required conditions within the software to adhere to the customer’s requirements, providing full traceability on who accessed the machine, when and for how long.

Schneider’s fingerprint reader has been built to give access to electrical control panels but could be adapted to work with the control of a machine, again, ensuring that only authorised personnel can change the settings on a machine. This would be necessary in process industries where changing of machine settings could compromise quality.

Protecting data from theft or loss

Protecting data from a regulatory point of view is important - and has always been so - but the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the biggest overhaul in this area for the last two decades, and so companies will be under more scrutiny and an increased duty to protect data. They will be fined heavily for any breaches, so taking effective measures will be crucial.

There is also the factor of protecting the intelligence held within the building, which could have far reaching ramifications if accessed. If a manufacturer wanted to protect a patent or other sensitive information that could have a detrimental effect to either the business and/or its customers if leaked, then the serious consideration of available technologies needs to be made.

Laptop chains and strong passwords are a simple solution when it comes to protecting hardware and data held on machines. When it comes to portable data, choosing the right product can make considerable difference.

Gabriel Mancas, RS product manager for Northern Europe, says RS stocks i-Storage products, which offers a large range of data protection hardware, from encrypted desktop hard drives to portable hard drives and memory sticks. The equipment is of military grade security level, is pin protected and tamper proof. Information will be automatically deleted from a portable device if tampered with, meaning there is no need to panic if it were stolen or lost somewhere.

With GDPR compliance duties and the huge potential for significant negative impact from security breaches, buyers within manufacturing environments should look to work with the right product distributors, who can offer sound advice and quality products across the full product spectrum. The consequences of not giving asset security full consideration are too serious not to.