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Visibility Solutions

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How to Provide Secure Visibility in Manufacturing Networks


Today’s critical infrastructure industries include the manufacturing and distribution of goods such as aerospace and defense, electronics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, and food and beverages.

Manufacturing networks in operational technology (OT) environments utilize Industrial Control Systems (ICS) and other various systems like supervisory control and data acquisitions (SCADA) systems, distributed control systems (DCS), and Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs).

For decades, OT systems relied on processes, proprietary protocols, and software that were manually managed and monitored.

Being siloed from the outside world, these manufacturing systems were relatively insignificant targets for hackers, as they would have to physically breach the facility to access the terminals.

IT networks have been steadily growing in the sophistication of computer systems, hardware, software, and networks related to the processing and distribution of data. 



Fast forward to the 21st century, and there is no question why digital transformation has been incorporated into these previously non-connected systems.

This IT-OT convergence gives manufacturing organizations a complete view of both industrial systems and process management solutions, as well as the various industrial internet of things (IIoT) devices and the manufacturing equipment itself.

All with the goal of better managing accurate information on users, machines, switches, sensors, and devices in real time.

But, the Industrial IoT digital transformation leaves the OT infrastructure side vulnerable, as they tend to be poorly protected against cyber attacks.

OT teams face complex challenges when it comes to architecting connectivity throughout these large and sometimes aging infrastructures that weren’t initially designed with network security in mind. 

These challenges include: 

  • Relying on legacy switch SPAN ports for visibility that aren’t secure, reliable, or available 
  • Face different media or speed connections between the network and various tools 
  • Network sprawl with a need to reduce network complexity
  • Require unidirectional connectivity for their monitoring tools 

Fortunately, these challenges have a solution. 



Optimized security and performance strategies start with 100% visibility into network traffic.

And visibility starts with the packet.

The industry's best practice for packet visibility is network TAPs (test access points).

Network TAPs are purpose-built hardware devices that create an exact full duplex copy of the traffic flow continuously, 24/7, without compromising network integrity.

Instead of connecting two network segments, such as routers and switches, directly to each other, the network TAP is placed between them to gain complete access to traffic streams.

TAPs transmit both the send and receive data streams simultaneously on separate dedicated channels, ensuring all data arrives at the monitoring or security device in real-time. Also,

  • Network TAPs make a 100% full duplex copy of network traffic 
  • Network TAPs do not alter the data or drop packets 
  • Network TAPs are scalable and can either provide a single copy, multiple copies (regeneration), or consolidate traffic (aggregation) to maximize the production of your monitoring tools

Most importantly, data diode TAPs are purpose-built network hardware device that allows raw data to travel only in one direction, used as a traffic enforcer, guaranteeing information security or protection of critical digital systems, such as industrial control systems, from inbound cyber attacks.

Data Diodes are specifically designed not to send traffic back onto the network.

Interested in learning more about how Network TAPs can help provide full visibility into an  OT network of a manufacturing facility? Read our White Paper titled “ICS Visibility Guide: MANUFACTURING.”

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Written by Todd Cain

Todd has over two decades of experience in Technical Sales and Solutions Consulting.  He began his career in the USAF as a Telecommunications Specialist.  Since then his focus has been helping customers understand and deploy Network Test, Monitoring, and Visibility Solutions.



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