Industrial Control System USB Flash Drive Designed For ICS Security

usb flash drive

The fourth industrial revolution or “Industry 4.0” is a term used to categorize today’s trend with industrial control systems (ICS) and how these machines interact with each other and humans.

The fourth era of “industry” combines hardware, software and biology and emphasizes the advancements in communication and connectivity. When the term IoT (Internet of Things) is used, this is the type of example that would apply. Industrial Control System USB Flash Drives designed for ICS security are critical to industrial systems and how they are controlled by their owners. The key when a USB flash drive is introduced into a control system, is security. Without security, one could lose control of the industrial system and ultimately introduce risks into a population or region.

Before we look closer at Industry 4.0 and data storage, let us provide a short summary of the first three phases of the industrial revolution.

First Industrial Revolution

The first industrial revolution was marked by a transition from hand production methods to machines through the use of steam power and water power. The integration of these new technologies took a long time, and spans a period between 1760 and 1840 for Europe and the United States. The first phase had the greatest impact on virtual industrial channels such as textile manufacturing, iron production, agriculture and mining (in general).

Second Industrial Revolution

The Second Industrial Revolution, also known as the Technological Revolution, is the period between 1871 and 1914. This period built extensive railroad and telegraph networks allowing for faster transfer of people and with the advent of electricity the exchange of communication and ideas. Introduction and increase from electrical networks allowed for factories to develop modern production lines.

Third Industrial Revolution

The third industrial revolution, also known as the Digital Revolution, occurred in the late 20th century. With a slowdown of industrialization and technological advancements compared to previous periods the third phase from into the development in digital technology. The Z1 computer, which used binary floating-point numbers and Boolean logic, was a clear indicator the digital advancements would define the third industrial phase.

Fourth Industrial Revolution

The term “Industrie 4.0” or shortened to I4.0 or simply I4 was a phrase introduced by the German government is an attempt to define and promote the computerization of manufacturing. For example, the ability for equipment to self-optimize, self-configuration, self-diagnose and make cognition decisions to increase productivity while reducing the intervention of human decision making.

The fourth industrial revolution phase is at its infancy right now. Much of the revolution will depend on artificial intelligence and how these industrial systems connect and communicate with each other, for example, through the IoT technology mentioned earlier.

Since I4 is just starting, the intern-connected process is still not defined and integrated into industrial control systems. Because of this stage of the process, physical devices such as secure USB flash drives for ICS is still critically important.

The risk with a USB flash drive in a control system is the chance a virus or malware will infect the control system. The best way to eliminate the risk is to insure a virus isn’t on the flash drive in the first place. The only way to insure a virus doesn’t get on a flash drive used with industrial control systems is to guarantee the USB flash drive is write protected, or read-only. When the ICS USB flash drive is read-only, it is impossible for the virus to write itself onto the flash drive.

Investigating different ICS USB flash drive solutions we found two that work extremely well. The solutions we found are hardware based which is the most secure type of technology.

Disc License is a product where the USB is a blank CD-ROM USB flash drive. the Industrial Control System manufacturer, say Schneider Electric for example, can write their data from an ISO file to the USB flash drive and create a read-only drive. This creates a flash drive which looks and acts like a CD-ROM disc and can be used to upload firmware or software to an industrial control system without harm of a virus getting onto the USB and spreading during firmware updates.

This is true because, by definition, a CD-ROM devices is read-only. Think of a Compact Disc; one cannot write to that type of disc. This is a great Industrial Control System USB Flash Drive.

Lock License is a product where the USB is always write protected, but with a special bit of code, the ICS manufacturer can make the USB writable. This is different from the Disc License because the Disc License drive can never be updated or changed. The Lock License product is the best suited device for secure ICS USB flash drive solutions. The Lock License drive gives the control of when the device becomes writable, all the while, making sure the default state of the flash drive is write protected.

Said another way, the Lock License drive will always be write protected (read-only) when the stick is disconnected from power. So even in the event the ICS manufacturer forgot to enable the read-only state after a data load, the drive will still be write protected once removed from the computer.

Remember, the most secure ICS USB flash drive is the one which is read-only. This implies the ICS manufacturer is in complete control of their technology environment before writing anything to the drive, which ultimately creates a read-only – secure – solution.

Since the Lock License drive will accept an encrypted command to become writable, this allows an ICS manufacturer to create solutions to unlock the write protection, perform data dumps or firmware changes, then re-lock the drive; all programmatically.

This is another excellent example of an Industrial Control System USB Flash Drive.

The company which offers these two products is Nexcopy Incorporated. This is a USA based company which is located in Southern California and in business since 2004.

ics usb flash drive

Instrumentation and communication drive the central forces of innovation for the Industry 4.0 phase and intend to build smart production, smart mobility, smart homes, smart cities, and smart factories. During this fourth phase, it is important to keep the industrial control systems as secure as possible. Using secure ICS USB flash drives plays an important role in that security.

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