Securing safe operations in mines

mine wikimediaMining organisations increasingly want to utilise OT assets for business purposes. (Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)Convergence of IT and operational technology (OT) assets is being actively considered in order to reduce the access path of potential cyber hackers in the mining industry

Mining facilities face security risks due to numerous factors. Despite their remote or isolated locations, they rely on remote operation centres which employ or control trucks, drills, trains, ship loaders, mills or concentrators.

They are exposed to environmental activists who may commit cyber attacks for political reasons or economic attacks such as disruption of the metal market, especially copper, so as to affect the price at another mine. Also affecting this industry is the fact that many business functions are being centralised across the supply chain. This has translated into the need for more sophisticated OT systems and network infrastructure to connect the geographically diverse workforce, increasing an organisation’s exposure to, and dependency on, the Internet.

Mining organisations increasingly want to utilise OT assets for business purposes. They want to be agile and have the ability to make modifications to their OT configurations. They want to take advantage of new, cheaper, IP sensors and actuators. They want to exploit their corporate identity provider service to authenticate operational personnel. It’s an exciting time for operational technology systems. However, it is also a time for caution. Such progress inevitably brings a new range of security issues.

Ensuring effective security

The objective is to reduce the access path of potential cyber hackers to OT systems from the Internet. OT systems are inherently less secure as many old systems were not designed with security in mind. A proper security solution must be not only cost-effective but also take into account the complex integration of remote systems, peripherals and cloud-based services integrated into internal networks and devices.

OT security solutions can provide mining and metal companies with a robust, centrally-managed and enforced OT security policy, automation of hardening processes with reporting of compliance to management and regulatory authorities. The solution can include a security centre system located at a company’s headquarters and virtual security engineers (VSEs), installed in each site. NextNine offers such a solution.

Bringing IT and OT together

There are also considerations with respect to the trend towards convergence of IT systems and OT assets. Over the past five years, particularly, the worlds of IT and OT have been converging, and technologists have managed the integrating IT and OT environments - delivering several benefits including optimised business processes, enhanced information for better decisions, reduced costs, lower risks, and shortened project timelines. Convergence brings a shared set of standards and platforms across IT and OT, and so enables mining companies to reduce costs in many areas of software management. Most importantly, too, are the reduced risks that come from reducing malware intrusion and internal errors. Cyber security is enhanced when IT security staff and practices are shared or combined with OT departments, to bring about an holistic IT-OT security environment.

Alain Charles Publishing, University House, 11-13 Lower Grosvenor Place, London, SW1W 0EX, UK
T: +44 20 7834 7676, F: +44 20 7973 0076, W: www.alaincharles.com

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