Home → Magazine Archive → October 2019 (Vol. 62, No. 10) → Protecting Industrial Control Systems → Abstract

Protecting Industrial Control Systems

By Keith Kirkpatrick

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 62 No. 10, Pages 14-16

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While most commercial and government organizations have a corporate network to handle administrative, sales, and other back- or front-office data, a growing number of organizations also have implemented one or more supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. These systems incorporate software and hardware elements that allow industrial organizations, utility companies, and power generators to monitor and control industrial processes and devices, including sensors, valves, pumps, and motors. Today's SCADA systems also allow organizations to harvest data from these devices, and then to analyze and make adjustments to their operational infrastructure to improve efficiency, make smarter decisions, and quickly address system issues to help mitigate downtime.

A typical SCADA architecture consists of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) or remote terminal units (RTUs), which are small computers used to communicate with manufacturing equipment, human-machine interfaces (HMIs), sensors, and other end devices, and then route the information from those objects to computers equipped with SCADA software. The SCADA software collects, processes, distributes, and displays this data, helping operators and other employees analyze the data and make important decisions.


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