Sunday, November 13, 2016

Latest manufacturing advances create new vulnerability to cyber threats

A number of recent reports have pointed out the vulnerability of manufacturers to cyber threats. Small manufacturers are an important part of the manufacturing supply chain and simply do not have expertise and resources to take proactive preventive actions against sophisticated cyber threats. These vulnerabilities can be exploited to cause disruptions to the supply chain. 

The introduction of advanced manufacturing technologies is expected to revolutionize manufacturing, enable innovation, and create new businesses. However, emerging manufacturing technologies will create new vulnerabilities from the cyberattack perspective. Here are representative examples of vulnerabilities created by the introduction of new manufacturing technologies.
  • Digital Manufacturing: The manufacturing sector has moved away from paper–based blueprints and has embraced digital models. 3D models are being used to manage design and manufacturing processes and speed up the product development process. However, the reliance on digital data and models creates new vulnerabilities during cyberattacks.
  • Network-Connected Machines: The Internet of the Things is revolutionizing manufacturing by finding applications in prognostics and health management, on-line process monitoring, and process optimization. It is expected to increase manufacturing resource availability, reduce energy and water consumption, and fundamentally alter the ways manufacturing equipment gets maintained and serviced. However, a machine connected on the Internet can be a target for a hacker.
  • Cloud-Based Services: Cloud based services are increasingly being used to exploit big data related technologies to make sense of the data being generated by manufacturing enterprises. It can be leveraged to make smart decisions and improve the operational performance of the organization. However, the need to transfer data back and forth between the cloud and the manufacturing equipment creates new vulnerabilities.
  • Automation: The use of robotic manipulators, 3D printers, and automated guided vehicles is expected to increase productivity in the manufacturing sector. These technologies can be run untended for days at a time. These technologies can not only reduce operational cost, but also offer new functional capabilities. For example, 3D printers can be used to fabricate designs that would have been impossible to make using traditional manufacturing methods. The absence of human operators means that tempering of the machine by a hacker is likely to go unnoticed for a considerable period of time and can cause serious problems.
  • Miniaturization: Modern products increasingly use miniaturized subsystems. This delivers improved performance and packs many functions in a single product (e.g., smart phones). To meet this need, today’s manufacturing technology is able to create very small features. This also means that malicious tampering is very hard to detect. For example, a hacker can insert small features in a part being built on a high resolution 3D printer. Such features will be very difficult detect.
  • Complexity: Modern manufacturing is a complex network consisting of hardware, software, and people connected over the network. This complexity will make it difficult to secure manufacturing enterprises from cyberattacks and detect an attack in progress in a timely manner.
Cyberattacks on a manufacturing enterprise can cause serious problems. The following list presents representative examples:
  • Cyberattacks can be used to steal proprietary information and product designs.
  • Activities in a factory can be monitored to develop reconnaissance on planned future missions and capabilities without even the need for stealing the product data.
  • The digital data being used by the factory can be altered to make subtle changes in the products. These changes can sabotage the products or provide backdoor entry into the product.
  • A hacked robot or automated guided vehicles can simply run around on the factory floor at a high speed and cause major damage to the expensive equipment on the shop floor in a matter of few minutes. A sensor reading can be modified during the process control loop execution and can be used to cause serious damage to the equipment and the product being made.
  • A critical machine can be simply shut off by a hacker and cause major production disruptions. This can have a significant crippling impact on the downstream supply chain.
  • Critical information and data stored on a computer can be corrupted and rendered useless. This can lead to the loss of critical knowledge and trade secrets.
  • Infected machines and robots can cause physical injuries to people in the factories.
  • Infected machines can trigger fire and other environmental hazards for the nearby residential communities.
  • Shutting down of a factory by a cyberattack can have significant economic impact on the local community as many members of the community (e.g., food vendors, retailers) rely on the factory workers for their livelihood.
Significant progress has been made in the field of Cyber Security for Information Technology based systems. Securing manufacturing enterprise from cyberattacks presents many new challenges. Machines and equipment used on factories have a long life (e.g., 20 to 30 years). They have limited memory and computing power and often unable to run the latest security software. Upgrading them frequently is economically not viable. The strategy of simply shutting down a machine in the middle of an expensive build is also not practical as it will lead to significant waste. Most small manufacturing companies do have people with the right expertise to monitor and recognize cyber threats. The physical aspect of a manufacturing enterprise means that simply taking a machine off the network will not contain the damage. The robot may continue to move and keep causing physical damage despite being off the network.

Making manufacturing enterprises safe from cyberattacks is a challenging task. It will require developing new cyber-physical security technologies and training people to combat cyberattacks and take proactive measures to secure the equipment. Manufacturing companies will need to build a culture that ensures that people take appropriate preventive measures to reduce vulnerability to cyberattacks. The presence of WiFi-connected smart phones and smart watches on the factory floors poses a major challenge to securing the factory network.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Recent Computing Advances: Artificial Intelligence or Augmented Intelligence?

There have been significant advances in computing over the last twenty years. These advances enable computers to perform amazing feats that are far beyond the capabilities of humans. Here are few examples.
  • Ability to “read” millions of documents in a few minutes and index the information contained in those documents
  • Search for digital artifacts (e.g., documents, images, etc.) based on user specified criteria in a fraction of a second from a diverse set of digital repositories
  • Detect complex patterns and anomalies in real-time in a datastream consisting of several gigabytes of data
  • Systematically generate and explore millions of options within a few seconds to determine the optimal course of action
These capabilities have been harnessed to build systems that can beat human grandmasters in chess, design novel devices that can be patented, detect barely visible early stage tumors in CT images, and predict fraudulent credit card transactions with a high degree of accuracy.

The computing technologies behind the above mentioned capabilities are often referred to as Artificial Intelligence (AI). Some are predicting that AI will surpass human intelligence in the not too distant future. These predictions are beginning to alarm a segment of the general public. This raises several questions. Will human intelligence be relevant if AI continues to make rapid advances? What jobs will humans do if AI continues to surpass humans on tasks that are currently performed by intelligent humans?

I view recent computing advances from a different lens. I believe that these advances will augment human capabilities instead of competing with humans. Computers and humans have different strengths. In the previous paragraphs, I outlined some of the ways in which computers are excelling. Let us now review the particular strengths of human beings. Only humans can relate to human emotions and their underlying origins (many of these often defy logic in the mathematical sense!). I strongly believe that only humans can understand needs, wants, and desires of other human beings. Human contact and social interaction is the only way to lift the spirits of human beings and inspire them to do their best. Humans are very creative and capable of inventing artifacts and services that other human beings want. They possess the judgment to figure out how to assess values of different options in a complex decision making problem. They are capable of incorporating ethical, moral, cultural, and legal considerations in the decision making process. Humans also have an innate ability to generalize from a very limited number of observations to draw broader conclusions.

The latest advances in computing are freeing humans from biologically-imposed constraints on memory, computing speed, and communication bandwidth. We can view recent advances in computing as a way to augment human intelligence, therefore the term AI should stand for Augmented Intelligence. Using augmented intelligence, every human will be able to communicate with thousands of people at the same time, communicate in virtually every language, explore millions of options before making a decision, and access all known human knowledge. Leveraging augmented intelligence will enable humans to excel by exploiting their creative energy and their ability to connect with their fellow humans. I believe that humans armed with augmented intelligence will have the potential to improve virtually all facets of our lives. Here are ten ways augmented intelligence will help people in doing their jobs better: 

  1. Currently educators are unable to provide personalized attention to students to suit their learning style and pace. With augmented intelligence, professors and teachers can use augmented intelligence to provide personalized attention to students by designing and grading tailored assignments to match the learning needs of each student. 
  2. Nowadays, due to the large volume of the published research, practicing doctors are unable to remain current with the latest findings. Doctors can use augmented intelligence to ensure that each patient’s treatment plan is informed by the latest advances in the field by taking into account all the relevant latest research on treatment options and side effects of new medicines.
  3. Most challenging problems require an interdisciplinary approach. For example, engineers want to take inspiration from biology. Engineers can use augmented intelligence to analyze all the relevant literature outside of their narrow field of expertise (e.g., biology) to draw inspiration and automatically construct models from the published experimental data. They can focus on asking the right questions and leave the more tedious work to the computers.
  4. Law enforcement agents can use augmented intelligence to gather and analyze all the evidence instantaneously by searching and integrating information from many disparate information sources.
  5. Designers can use augmented intelligence to synthesize optimal designs by rapidly generating and evaluating billions of options. They can use their insights and judgment to steer the computer search in the right direction. For example, this can help in designing betters drugs.
  6. Marketing professionals can use augmented intelligence to mine the vast amount of social media data to understand the recent trends and customer needs. This can help them in developing the right marketing strategy in order to craft advertisement campaigns that appeal to the taste of their prospective customers.
  7. Augmented intelligence can enable entertainers to stay in touch with their fans by providing personalized response on social media and analyzing fan feedback to create art that truly inspires.
  8. Using augmented intelligence, writers can get access to documents written in virtually every language to draw upon and can transcend the language barrier to reach a worldwide audience.
  9. Financial advisers can use augmented intelligence to offer affordable personalized advice to their clients by better understanding client needs and the market conditions in today’s fast changing world.
  10. Public policy professionals can analyze the implications of their proposed policies by conducting extensive computer simulations and customized surveys. The execution of both of these tasks can be improved by using augmented intelligence to automate these tasks.
Unfortunately right now, access to augmented intelligence will be restricted to a privileged few. This will exacerbate the already existing digital divide. Society will have to work that much harder to ensure that access to augmented intelligence technology will be available to all.