Selecting Critical Infrastructure Components to Monitor in Industrial Networks: Methods & Examples

Instructor: Erik Rodriguez

Erik has experience working in Cybersecurity and has a Master's of Science in Information Systems.

In this lesson, we will discuss the process that can be used to help determine which components to monitor in a network. Additionally, we will review an example of how this is accomplished in an industrial setting.

End-of-Semester Woes

''Which assignment is the most urgent at the moment?'', you ask yourself. Books, papers, and a bevy of writing instruments are strewn across your desk in a chaotic mess. As the semester begins to wind down, it seems as if all your professors colluded to have deadlines for assignments land on the same day. You'll have to pull an all-nighter but you know that with careful planning you'll get everything done on time. After some deliberating, you decide to work on the more difficult assignments first before working on the easier ones. This process of selecting what is most critical is also used in industrial networks.

The Critical Components Selection Process

The process of determining which components to monitor in an industrial network can be as demanding as the actual monitoring of those components. Much like how you would prioritize assignments to best manage your time and resources, network engineers carefully select those infrastructure components which require more monitoring than others. In doing so, they ensure these critical components in industrial systems are properly defended while also preventing unnecessary use of resources on non-critical components. The process of selecting critical components can vary between industries, but generally, they all contain the same three basic steps.

Mapping the Current Infrastructure

The first step involves mapping the current industrial network infrastructure. By mapping out the network, you'll get an overview of all the different components in the system. Going back to the example at the start of this lesson, this step is comparable to how you may lay out all your assignments so you can see everything that needs to get done during an all-nighter. To assist in determining the current infrastructure, tools such as network mapping software are used. This software is able to automatically create a visual representation of how the network is currently set up.

A basic example of a simple network diagram
network diagram

Analyzing the Current Infrastructure

In this step, all the components gathered in the previous step are analyzed. This analysis will allow network engineers to gain a better sense of the role each component plays in the overall system. This is similar to how you would review all your assignments to see what is required for each and determine difficulty level, estimated time to complete, etc. Analyzing the components requires consulting with management, field workers, and other personnel to determine how each component is used in daily operations.

Meeting with field workers can help determine the role each component plays in the industrial process

Ranking Components

The final step involves ranking each component according to their importance in the overall system. Ranking can be done in a variety of ways. One method involves assigning a numerical value according to the impact a component will have should it come offline. Once ranked, network engineers can see which components require the most monitoring. This is akin to how you would sort assignments based on how you ranked each in terms of how difficult they are and how long they would take to complete. Once the critical components are determined, network engineers can begin implementing monitoring tools.

Ranking can help determine the most critical components to monitor

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