Predict the Impact of Cyberattacks on Control Systems | AIChE

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Predict the Impact of Cyberattacks on Control Systems


Process simulations can reveal the possible impacts of cyberattacks on process equipment, performance, and safety.

The chemical process industries (CPI) are targets for cyberattacks that can impact profitability, as well as the safety of operations and products (1). The risk of an attack increases as companies and supply chains use data and computing to streamline process operations. Attacks might target industry computers and networks to impact day-to-day operations, corrupt data, physically harm process equipment or process output, demand payment, change product designs, or steal intellectual property.

Attackers use a host of methods that are continually evolving to achieve their goals, which makes it challenging to select a long-term method to defend against attacks (1). A security vulnerability assessment can help in identifying cybersecurity risks and determining appropriate defensive actions (2). The American Petroleum Institute (API) and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) provide guidelines to conduct such an assessment (3). Methodologies to perform an assessment (2, 4) should consider the target of cyberattacks (e.g., hardware, firmware, software, and networks) and then assess the likelihood that any given target would be attacked, which is based on factors such as the potential magnitude of the consequences (3).

Some aspects of cybersecurity are focused on information technology, as attackers look to infiltrate systems and steal money via emails to employees. However, another aspect of cybersecurity looks at attacks tied to operational technology that impact control systems and degrade safety.

This article examines cybersecurity using chemical engineering fundamentals, and it uses simulations to explore the possible impacts of an attack on process equipment and process performance.

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