WorldWide Drilling Resource®

If you don’t want to be hacked . . . by Britt Storkson Owner, P2FlowLLC The Hour publication recently ran an article about a cybersecurity threat to an Israeli water system entitledOfficials say Iran attempted hack of Israel’s water system . If you don’t want to be hacked, then remove the potential to be hacked; and don’t put yourself in a place where you can be hacked. If you really want to eliminate the possibility of being hacked, then don’t go on the Internet in the first place. Sure, it’s nice to have all of your information uploaded to “the cloud” where it can be accessed and disseminated, but the extra convenience inherently comes with a lot of extra problems. Remember Internet information flows both ways. The “pipeline” moving information out from the cloud into your computer system also operates in reverse. The information you’re getting could be good or bad. The good information is what you wanted, and the bad information could include spyware, malware, ransomware, or worse. For some time now, I have advocated modular independent equipment monitoring that does not require an Internet connection. One way it can work is, say you have a line of ten water pumps pumping into a common water line. Each of these pumps would have its own independent control unit monitoring all if its operations. If anything is not working properly at any time, it would alert the control room by closing a mechanical relay. This relay closure would be visible in the control room or a smartphone via a simple, isolated interface. Remember, in the initial stages of a breakdown, one does not need to know exactly what is breaking down or how. All one needs to know is that there’s a problem and where it is. If the dedicated control unit did malfunction, there would be an inventory of completely preprogrammed and pretested replacement control units which could be replaced in less than 30 seconds using “keyed” cables that go together only one way. Good controls design does not allow errors (like misplaced wiring) to happen in the first place. Downtime with this setup would be 15-30 minutes at most - to replace the entire operating system, no less. And what about data logging such as hours of operation, pump pressures at various times, etc.? It can be easily transferred to an SD (Secure Digital) card or a USB flash drive. This data can then be uploaded into a personal computer system where it can be organized and presented within reports or on spreadsheets. There is no direct connection to the Internet and therefore no possibility of data corruption, otherwise known as hacking. The dedicated (or embedded) computers can be simple and inexpensive, and one “platform” (printed circuit board and software) could be repurposed for a variety of other uses by simply selecting each application in the program configuration - greatly reducing costs and increasing reliability. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your car had a “universal” computer operating all of the computer-controlled components in it? The repair would be simply unplugging the existing computer and replacing it with another one. This computer could also test all of the sensors and tell you which one was a problem, as well as evaluating engine operation. This approach is simple, cheap, and reliable, which is exactly why it isn’t widely used. There’s money to be made in obfuscation and by “cornering the market”, and the vendors leverage this scenario to obtain the maximum monetary advantage. The technology is certainly there for the taking, but if the industry doesn’t want it, the benefits won’t be utilized. You don’t want to risk being a crime victim by going into a bad neighborhood, so why allow your computer to go into the great big neighborhood called the Internet without the proper precautions? If you don’t want bad things to happen, then reduce the odds those things will happen: Just don’t go there in the first place. We currently have two house cats, but my wife complains they knock things off the counters and leave cat hair everywhere. To that I say: Either don’t put anything of value on the counters, or don’t have the cats. If you don’t want the issues, then don’t go there in the first place. Britt Britt Storkson may be contacted via e-mail to michele@ 7 WorldWide Drilling Resource ® SEPTEMBER 2020