Secure with Scada? - Annunciators as a Reliable Solution

Posted by Mahendra Dissasekera

Feb 28, 2014 1:46:00 PM

A bold statement recently made by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta garnered some media attention following a cyber attack on Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer.

If you have yet to see the news, click on the CBS video below:

Whether you buy in to the extremity of Panetta’s statement or not, the reality is that even the world’s largest oil producer isn’t immune to the crippling impact of a cyber attack. It reminds us that even the most advanced computer-based SCADA system, PLC or DCS in your plant today isn’t perfect.

This important concern has once again re-emerged regarding the vulnerability of computer based SCADA systems that are used to monitor and control essential industries such as nuclear, water and waste water, oil and gas industry and the electrical grid. While these systems have evolved over the past decade (converging real time monitoring, alarm time stamping, alarm display and internet-based communication features all into one attractive package) they also continue to raise some very critical questions.

The following articles (two out of many found over the web) give us a glimpse as to why this conversation remains open:

SCADA alarm display

  • ISS SOURCE – “An electronic water-pump monitoring system failed to notify city workers of low water-storage levels, causing thousands of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., residents to wake up to dry taps in their homes this past Sunday.”
  • INFORMATION AGE– “Hackers recently accessed the critical infrastructure of three unnamed cities by compromising their SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems, the deputy assistant director of the FBI's Cyber Division said…”

 In an emergency, will your operator be equipped to respond to a flood of activity and alarms that bombard the HMI interface all at once? The most serious threats can intend to either seriously disable the alarm system or generate false alarms so operators are unaware of developing problems. Can you trust your SCADA system to monitor and control your most critical processes?

What’s the most reliable and safest solution?

Alarm Monitoring via unambiguous annunciators continues to be the most reliable solution and backup for your control system.

In an emergency situation “time” is the critical factor - will your operator be equipped to respond to a flood of activity and alarms that bombard the HMI interface all at once? Will he/she respond to all alarms equally or will he/she be able to select most critical alarms first? An effective window annunciator system provides high reliability and unambiguous meaning of changes in the states of their window indicators. Operators are unlikely to miss an alarm condition displayed in a window annunciator – making all the difference in an emergency situation.

Leaving your most critical processes in the hands of a software-free display system and well-informed operator could mean all the difference between an emergency and a catastrophe.

Interested in annunciators but not sure which is right for your application? Try our Alarm Selection Guide: 

Download Annunciator Matrix

Topics: Alarm Display, annunciator

Written by Mahendra Dissasekera

Mahendra is a Sales Application Engineer for Ronan Engineering Company. Mahendra’s past experience as an I&C Engineer in a Power Plant provided him with valuable field expertise on Power generation and distribution, Electro mechanical field instruments, and PLC/DCS, SCADA distributed control systems. Further experience includes system improvements, alarm management, safety and critical infrastructure and high voltage applications. In addition to I & C experience he followed TPM, OSHA and SOP to improve system performance and MTBF.

Over 50 Years of Proven Knowledge and Experience

Ronan products are found in power plants, oil and gas refineries, medical buildings, metal processing plants, chemical plants, food and beverage plants, paper plants, mining operations, military vessels, hydrogen gas stations, and more. After over 50 years of providing thousands of Process & Power customers with custom solutions for their monitoring and measurement needs, Ronan has decided to expose these solutions to YOU.  

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