In August 1962, the first recorded interaction across a network was a series of memos from J.C.R. Licklider of MIT discussing a concept he called "Intergalactic Computer Network.” According to the Internet Society, Licklider “envisioned a globally interconnected set of computers through which everyone could quickly access data and programs from any site.” What he didn’t know—couldn’t know—was how the Internet would revolutionize business, culture, communications and social interaction.

Fast-forward 38 years. By December 2000 there were 361 million people connected to this “Intergalactic Computer Network” called the Internet. And while the consumer adoption of the Internet was still in its infancy at that time, analyst firm Frost & Sullivan envisioned the future potential of the Internet on industry. They called it, simply, the Industrial Internet.

The Industrial Internet Opportunity...

Nearly fifteen years later, Gartner estimated there would be 736 million industrial connected things in use by the end of 2015. A report by Evans Data Corporation in January 2015 revealed connected industrial devices have increased 191 percent in 2014.

Why such rapid adoption of Internet connected devices by industry? Because of its massive potential to drive efficiency and competitiveness. GE estimates that a mere one percent gain in efficiency as a result of the Industrial Internet over 15 years across industries such as energy, transportation and healthcare could save more than $150 billion a year.

... If It’s Secure

But to fully benefit from the Industrial Internet, companies must ensure security is built into their strategies. There was a time when connectivity outside an immediate plant or factory network wasn’t possible. Control engineers would address security with air gapping—a network security strategy to physically isolate a secure network from unsecured networks.

But air-gapping no longer exist in a rapidly connected industrial world. A flash drive or Wi-Fi connection used by an inexperienced insider could wreak havoc and infect critical systems. Now is the time for system operators to fully understand what’s happening in their networks in order to protect them.

Where to Start

Engage early with industrial security specialists who can:

  • Help identify security weaknesses
  • Prioritize areas for improvement
  • Mitigate immediate risks
  • Reduce the overall attack surface of your network

It takes the right team with the right security skills, an industrial mindset and purpose-built solutions for industrial and process control environments that can scale to accommodate complex ICS and SCADA systems. This will provide the full network visibility, control, and protection needed to improve your security posture.

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About the author

GE Digital

Driving Digital Transformation

GE Digital connects streams of machine data to powerful analytics and people, providing industrial companies with valuable insights to manage assets and operations more efficiently. World-class talent and software capabilities help drive digital industrial transformation for big gains in productivity, availability and longevity. We do this by leveraging Predix, our cloud-based operating system, purpose built for the unique needs of industry.

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