Bryan Owen

21 March 2013: Your PI System might be ‘fragile’ if…

Blog Post created by Bryan Owen on Mar 22, 2013

Before taking a stab at telltales of a fragile system, why is a cyber security guy talking about fragility anyway?


The process control engineer in me is more accustom to the idea of system stability. Think about system response to a bump test when you are tuning loops. Ever have one get away from you? Set off an alarm? Or even cause a trip? Perhaps it’s at these times that system instability flirts with fragility.


But wait, there is more to fragility. Fragility has an aura of permanence like broken glass. What about the fabled blue screen of death (BSOD)? BSOD is certainly more than just bad luck and most would agree the experience is a hassle. I once experienced a BSOD during defrag resulting in a system that could no longer boot.


Perhaps instability and a fragile system make a perfect storm?


Back to why a cyber security guy is talking about fragility. Fragile can be used to describe systems that are both easily trashed by malicious or inadvertent activity and are hard to recover.


So with that intro, what are the telltales of a fragile PI System?

  1. If you’ve never tested disaster recovery… your PI System might be fragile.
  2. If everyone runs as administrator or piadmin… your PI System might be fragile.
  3. If you open shares to folders on the PI Server… your PI System might be fragile.
  4. If all PI Server archive files are writeable… your PI System might be fragile.
  5. If your servers are running Windows NT or 2000… your PI System might be fragile.
  6. If your only server reboots are due to power outage… your PI System might be fragile.
  7. If the PI Server out of order event count is high… your PI System might be fragile.
  8. If you discover applications that you don’t know where they came from… your PI System might be fragile.
  9. If you have to take a laptop with you on vacation… your PI System might be fragile.
  10. If your home PC is more powerful than your PI Server… you might be a geek!

All kidding aside, as a security guy the main reason for this post is to strongly urge you to plan a disaster recovery drill in the near future. This week’s copycat cyber-attacks in Korea are reported to include the destructive wiper virus. If you’ve been lax on PI System backups now is the time to review your plan.


While fragility is seemingly unavoidable in environments tied to plant operations, good preventative maintenance practices are still necessary. Of course, avoiding fragility isn’t the goal. You’d rather operate with stable and resilient systems that you can count on when you need them the most!