The potential effects that security breaches can have on safety may not be top of mind, but the consequences can be among the most extreme.
Imagine if a machine safety system was the target of a successful cyberattack. It might not know to slow down or stop if it reached dangerous conditions. In other words, the very protections that safety systems are designed to provide, might be lost.
The potential impact of such an attack could lead to an employee being injured or subject an entire facility to widespread safety risks, such as fires, leaks or explosions. The risks are exacerbated in facilities that handle volatile materials, such as oil and gas processing and inherently hazardous operations like mines.
Safety-related risks also can extend beyond company-owned facilities. A cyber attacker who targets a food or pharmaceutical operation with the intention of contaminating products, for example, could threaten consumer safety. On an even larger scale, a security attack on a critical infrastructure, such as energy or water-processing facilities, could affect the well-being and safety of millions of people. Concerningly, such facilities experienced a 20 percent increase in cyber incidents in 2015.
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