Cisco Live 2018: Avoiding distillery explosions with cybersecurity

Liquor company Beam Suntory is deploying a series of IoT and security features to smarten up its plants and distilleries while avoiding potentially catastrophic cyber attacks.

With remote access hacks into distilleries able to cause not only data-related and economic damage but also actual explosions, Beam Suntory said it realised the importance of protecting its networks against outside threats.

Speaking during Cisco Live 2018 in Orlando this week, the company's global senior network architect Amon Hogue explained how Beam Suntory -- which produces alcohols including Maker's Mark and Jim Beam -- is now able to allow IT experts to access its networks remotely.

Previously, it had allowed access only when these workers were brought physically on-site.

"For me, my big concern is security from an IT perspective; I don't want somebody just plugging in a machine to the network that has potential hazardous impact. We're a class 1 div 2 [explosive] environment; if somebody hacks into a machine, they could potentially cause massive damage to us," Hogue said.

"All of the moving parts and components of our industrial networks across the world require expertise, and the challenge for us has been how do we get support from subject matter experts that can remotely manage our environment -- how do we open it up to them without having somebody blow up our distillery?"

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The company has deployed security services including Cisco's firewalls, as well as isolating its production networks with firewall solutions that are completely off-net. It is also currently working on deploying an identity services engine, he said.

"Then we leverage some VPN access for the experts that come in to fix our control networks. We don't have to parachute them in anymore; we can actually give them remote access, and probably a few years ago that was off limits," he explained.

"They had to come physically on-site because there was so much concern on security, so I think over the past few years the tools that are provided to us to keep a secure environment while allowing remote access to the correct individuals has improved."

Beam Suntory is now utilising a mix of Rockwell solutions across its engineering team, and is working with Cisco on industrial products, which he said mesh well and bring together the IT and engineering teams.

The company is also jumping on board the Internet of Things (IoT) train, including tracking the entire distillation process -- for which Cisco has also provided multiple solutions and tools -- and using drones to perform flyovers of its crops.

This also involves implementing IoT security solutions, Hogue explained.

"From a distillery perspective, we have to be very in tune with the aging process, and what's going on with evaporation, and which barrel is at what part in the process, and how do we track the barrels, how do we track the forklifts that move those barrels, and keep things safe for our workers and their environments, and how do we keep things secure," he said.

"For Beam Suntory, whether it's in France or Mexico, we actually have drones flying over our fields, not just to look at the quality of our tequila plants, but also to monitor security. And those have to talk back to our cameras, security networks, etc.

"Cisco has really provided a lot of those tools that we can leverage and use."

Into the future, Hogue said Beam Suntory is looking next at how it can automate more of its processes, as well as examining the use of software-defined networking.

"For our industrial networks, for our enterprise business networks, for our offices, we're looking at the future of automation and how it can help us with tracking and mapping our trucks, rolling out new business offices -- we would like to see that whole dynamic completely automated," he explained.

"We're really looking towards how can we leverage the intelligent WAN design ... we want to do more with software-defined networks and automating, which networks which path our traffic takes."

Disclosure: Corinne Reichert travelled to Cisco Live in Orlando as a guest of Cisco

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