Variable Frequency Drive Systems and Cybersecurity

By Himanshu Shah

ARC Report Abstract

Cybersecurity is a huge concern across industry as more and more largely unsecured smart devices and machines become connected via the Indus-trial Internet of Things (IIoT). Variable frequency drives (also called AC drives) in particular, widely used in many critical industrial processes, are vulnerable once connected to an IIoT ecosystem. Whether a VFD system is integrated into an automation infrastructure or directly connected to the internet, malicious cyber-attacks could result in equipment damage, production losses, and/or casualties.

VFDs used in industrial applications are vital to national security, environmental safety, and even human safety. Although, to date, ARC Advisory Group is not aware of any serious cyber-attacks on industrial operations specifically targeted at VFDs, it would be naïve to think that they are not, or will not be, targets for future cyber-attacks.

While the frequency of these attacks could be very small, the potential impact could be huge. For example, cyber-attacks on VFDs could cripple water supplies, power plants, and industrial operations of all types. Clearly, end users, OEM machine builders, and VFD suppliers must take appropriate steps to mitigate future cyber-attacks on VFDs to avert significant physical and financial damage to their operations and personnel injury.

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Keywords: Variable Frequency Drives, AC Drives, VFD, Cybersecurity, Cyber-attacks, IIoT, Automation, Defense-in-depth, ARC Advisory Group.



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