Cisco security risk management portal unifies IT, industrial networks

Cisco unveiled its managed service, Cisco Secure Ops Solutions, to help unify security risk management for business environments with isolated IT and industrial networks.

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Cisco recently unveiled Secure Ops Solutions, a managed service that unifies compliance and security risk management for industrial and manufacturing environments, which are becoming increasingly connected to IP networks thanks to the Internet of Things.

Many businesses have long managed their industrial and manufacturing networks separately, or at least kept them isolated on the enterprise network, but Internet of Things (IoT) security is making the risk management of these networks more crucial. Cisco is now providing businesses -- especially those in industries with IP-connected industrial equipment or even medical devices -- with a single interface for managing their entire environment of people, machines and security tools to better protect their network against attacks, improve efficiency and lower the risk of downtime.

"We are bringing together different businesses processes, data sources and applications ... [that sit] outside of the carpeted office … into operational environments [and] onto the same network so the data can be shared," said Greg Carter, director of safety and security solutions at Cisco.

With so many touch points in the network generating their own sets of security data, businesses need a single viewpoint that not both security professionals and business leaders can use to help the organization make the right decisions and secure machines that are new to the network, said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at Westminster, Massachusetts-based ZK Research.

"Security tools are quite fragmented and the idea is to create a single operations center for security," he said. "The point of the IoT is to connect the unconnected, but [businesses] need to be able to understand the implications of what is now on their network."

Cisco Secure Ops offers a single viewpoint for Internet of things security

One of the biggest challenges businesses are facing today is IoT security, Carter said. Cisco Secure Ops is a managed service that aggregates Cisco and third-party security services -- from providers such as McAfee and Symantec -- into one management portal for network administrators. It allows businesses to automate software patches and anti-virus updates across all users and machines within the environment, while boosting situational awareness and reducing management complexity for IT.

"The way most of the security today has been handled is by security through obscurity, and the idea that 'if you can't see it, you can't attack it," Carter said. Many facilities have their manufacturing, warehouse and industrial networks completely isolated from their IT networks. Despite the separation however, attacks are still happening. Keeping the networks isolated also prevents businesses from taking advantage of convergence, or allowing their systems to work together to ensure higher availability and asset management, he said.

Offering Cisco Secure Ops as a service also helps to offload some of the complexity associated with expanding the security strategy for businesses, ZK's Kerravala said.

The IT organization at DJO Global, a Vista, California-based medical device manufacturer, has become increasingly aware of security implications for new devices and machines -- whether it be a device from a contractor or a video system in a conference room -- joining the network. This security awareness has only grown as malware incidents increase, said John Iraci, vice president of enterprise infrastructure for DJO Global.

DJO is developing new medical devices that can connect to the Internet and share medical chart information with insurance companies. Cisco's Secure Ops is a very attractive method for helping to manage security around these new devices especially if it can be delivered as a service, Iraci said. "We have two security professionals and one compliance and governance professional, so one of our biggest challenges is manning these kinds of systems."

Unified security risk management across networks and machines

Traditional enterprise IT networks with wired and wireless traffic and business applications have always had a focus on security, while industrial networks tend to prioritize machine and device availability. Many businesses -- especially those in the manufacturing industry -- don't have the right skills on site to manage the security and uptime of both these networks, said Matthew Fordenwalt, business manager of customer support and maintenance for Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation.

Rockwell Automation, a global provider of industrial automation, power, control and information services, is partnering with Cisco to deliver Secure Ops to its customers, who are already showing interest in the offering, Fordenwalt said. The service will provide Rockwell customers with antivirus and patch management, as well as remote access across all their networks.

Cisco Secure Ops is a good fit for Rockwell's management portfolio of services, and it will help businesses understand all its applications that are running, as well as equipment that is connected to the network, he said.

"Because we are seeing so many more connected enterprises, these [businesses] are realizing that they have to also secure their assets that don’t turn over every three years like their networking equipment does," Fordenwalt said. "Industrial appliances can have a 15 to 20 year lifecycle and businesses have to be able to keep those same machines running."

"We are trying to drive a comprehensive way to manage technology, to allow businesses to reach that productivity they are looking for without sacrificing anything as they make their network more secure moving forward,” he added.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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