November/December 2012
Final Say

Paul Galeski's ISA Excellence in Leadership Award acceptance speech

Paul Galeski

Editor's Note

The Final Say this month is Paul Galeski's acceptance speech when he received the Excellence in Leadership Award during the 50th Annual ISA Honors and Awards Gala, 24 September 2012, at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando, Fla. Galeski founded Maverick Technologies in 1999 with the intent of becoming a global resource dedicated to helping manufacturing businesses reach new levels of success. Over the past decade, Maverick has worked with hundreds of world-class clients to devise unique approaches, enhance productivity, reduce costs, and improve safety through the innovative application of industrial automation, enterprise integration, and operational consulting.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am excited to be here, and I am pleased and humbled to receive this award. I am also deeply honored that the award is presented by the International Society of Automation, an organization of which I have been a proud member for more than 25 years, and which I believe remains on course to set the highest standards for our industry and to produce leaders and companies who can meet those standards.

I also want to thank all the superb people at Maverick Technologies who have allowed me to lead them and who daily reflect the high ideals of this Association. Those people are the real award winners!

While I sincerely appreciate this honor, I feel compelled to use this forum to discuss a serious threat to our nations, customer requirements, and a role for each of you.

You are all educated, involved leaders so you must know that our networks are under significant attack every day by various hostile elements. By networks, I mean every system that uses IP addresses, whether in chemical plants, gas pipelines, the electrical power grid, and more. By hostile elements, I mean everything from disgruntled employees to enemy nation states. The point is that our automated systems in those networks are more vulnerable today than perhaps any other time in their development.

In July, Gregory C. Wilshusen, director of information security issues with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), noted that threats to systems supporting critical infrastructure (which includes the electricity industry and its transmission and distribution systems) are evolving and growing. He pointed out that the increased reliance on IT systems and networks expose the electric grid to potential and known cyber security vulnerabilities.

What impact might a grid failure have? Well, recently blackouts left half of India's population without electricity, demonstrating both vulnerability and impact. A series of failures and excessive demand on the Indian national grid knocked out power for 640 million people in northern and central India on 31 July, a day after a separate blackout left 360 million in seven states without power. In May, the French press reported that Joe Weiss, managing partner for the security firm Applied Control Solutions, said the latest (cyber) attacks highlight the vulnerability of so-called critical infrastructure systems.

He said control systems vulnerabilities can be found in the electrical grid, water utilities, and others, as well as pipeline operators.

"Once you get to those systems, really bad things happen," Mr. Weiss said. "That's where people die."

So if I have your attention now…

This is where all of you and this great Association come in: Together we need to demonstrate industry leadership to:

  • Learn more about the cyber threat to automated systems, including the ISA's very significant efforts to deal with the cyber threat through the emerging ISA-99 standard.
  • Inform, advise, and help automation end users to develop appropriate requirements to mitigate the threats and make our manufacturers, utilities, and other critical infrastructure secure, safer, and more competitive.
  • Design affordable and easily-deployed solution sets for our manufacturers and our nation.
  • Only when this threat is mitigated, can we recognize the rightful place of our profession-automation-as the engine of modern, globally competitive manufacturing.

In closing, cybersecurity is a real issue facing the automation industry and is a topic that we all need to address now. I welcome the opportunity to engage with ISA and its members, starting with this Conference, to talk about this important matter.

Most importantly, I want to express my gratitude to my family, who has supported me in all my undertakings, all the great people at Maverick Technologies, and all of you who make this organization so successful.

Thank you very much!