Digital Transformation, Process Safety, and Cybersecurity: The Need for OT Integrity

By Larry O'Brien

Industry Trends

PAS has carved a unique niche for itself among industrial software suppliers.  Today, the company’s primary focus is on OT integrity, including OT and ICS cybersecurity, automation asset management, and process safety.  At the 2020 ARC Industry Forum in Orlando, I once again had the opportunity to interview PAS founder and CEO Eddie Habibi.  We spoke about how customers can realize business value from digital transformation, the importance of providing information in context (to the right people at the right time), and the increasing importance of cybersecurity and building a good OT level asset inventory.  You can see the video here at ARC’s YouTube channel.  Included below are some highlighted quotes from Eddie.    



Helping Customers Leverage Digital Transformation

We are seeing a great reception of this new means of generating revenue, leveraging data, and modern ways of analyzing data to create new revenue models.  And we have been called in by our customers to help them in two specific areas. One is to provide context to the data that they gather from the field.  That's generally OT data, operational technology data that comes from the manufacturing field, and the second area is to provide some quick returns on investment, leveraging some of the technology that we have had that can provide analytics at the edge on controller performance and alarm management.


How Soon Can Customers Realize a Return on Their Digital Transformation Investment?

Almost immediately.  The infrastructure is there. We are at the edge doing the analysis for these control loops as well as the alarms that provide situation awareness in the control room, and we can feed that to cloud analytics, or a dashboard, where management or operation staff can immediately realize a return.

Providing Actionable Information

At the end of the day, actionable information is very important.  That the actionable information is related to process safety, reliability, which leads to profitability and then eventually one area that I have to bring to your attention is where our customers are concerned about the validity of the data that is moving up through the enterprise through multiple layers of networks and systems to the cloud to make sure that the data is accurate and has not been tampered with.

Unique Requirements of OT

We have been in the OT business.  Our company started as an OT systems configuration management company, and situation awareness in the control room. We have leveraged that platform of unique data from OT systems, in fact from over 125 different systems to provide this massive inventory, this capability to generate an entire inventory of a control system very quickly to identify vulnerabilities, security vulnerabilities that may exist and system to allow a team to go in and address those vulnerabilities, as well as configuration and configuration change management.

OT Requirements for Cybersecurity

One of the areas that's overlooked in security is how OT is so different from IT in terms of actions and intrusions into these systems are imparted upon the configuration of these systems.  That is a bad actor will go to the configuration of these systems to cause havoc on a process plan and we are able to detect those configuration changes and the configuration anomalies.

On the Role of Cybersecurity in Process Safety

Our focus has been on the process and data, that information that the operator in the control room sees and uses to make decisions on a daily basis.  The alarms and the control loop performance, but also there's one other critical area that is very important to the cybersecurity of a plant and the safety of the plant, and that is the safety instrumented systems. We provide that configuration management on the safety instrumented systems to make sure that the last line of defense, which is the safety function, is intact and ready just in case of either an inadvertent shutdown or an attack on a process plant.

Key PAS Initiatives for 2020

I am so excited about 2020.  2020 promises to be another great year for us. As you may know, we had an incredible growth year last year. The adoption of our cybersecurity solutions by the industry has been truly humbling for us. We have been recognized as the single source of truth when it comes to providing a complete inventory from level zero to level three of OT systems. We are going to continue to leverage the unique data set that we have that encompasses process and event data, as well as the configuration of the entire automation environment. Leveraging machine learning to create new insights and value add to our clients.

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