With cyber attacks continuing to hit headlines across the globe, the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) has launched a series of fact files to raise awareness of the importance of cybersecurity in the process industries and explain how chemical engineers can help to reduce this widespread risk.

Digital technologies are transforming chemical engineering, allowing chemical and process engineers to improve operational efficiency, reduce environmental impact and allow colleagues to collaborate across the globe in ways that have never been possible. However, these new opportunities also bring new risks with cyber attacks posing a significant threat to the process industries. Severe negative impacts include major safety and environmental incidents, reputational damage, loss of business data and financial cost. 

Given that the process industries have complex safety and environmentally-critical systems that must be protected to prevent major incidents, digital security should be an omnipresent element of a chemical engineer’s job. With the overlap between IT and operational technology systems used by chemical, biochemical and process engineers becoming increasingly apparent, it is more and more critical for chemical engineers to become cyber aware and not just leave cybersecurity planning to the IT department.

Chemical engineers have process engineering expertise and understanding of how a cybersecurity incident could impact on a chemical plant. They are therefore ideally placed to support IT departments in strengthening processes and planning responses in order to improve organisations’ resilience and minimise the risk of a cybersecurity incident.

Helen Kilbride, Chair of IChemE’s Digitalisation Technical Advisory Group (DigiTAG), said:

“I call on chemical engineers to be proactive, to undertake cybersecurity training and include cybersecurity when developing processes to manage risks. I would also encourage them to implement processes which deliver the most effective response should the worst happen. Companies are taking cybersecurity seriously, and so should our profession.

“I hope that the information contained with our cybersecurity fact file series will prove useful for chemical, biochemical and process engineers in developing their own knowledge of a hazard that has the potential to cause major disruption to critical systems.”

Developed by DigiTAG, IChemE’s new series of fact files provide practical explanations of how chemical engineers can help to manage this ongoing risk and can be viewed on the IChemE website.

The fact files cover various issues, including:

  • Cloud Computing and Cloud Collaboration
  • Remote access to IT and operating technology (OT) systems
  • Cybersecurity Incident Response Planning
  • Data Protection Strategies and ‘Defence in Depth’
  • Maintaining Operational Cybersecurity 
  • Cybersecurity Education
  • Cybersecurity Standards