Bell Helicopter Lands a Winning Cybersecurity Solution
Bell, a Textron Company, is an industry-leading manufacturer of commercial and military helicopters, including the V-22 Osprey; AH-1 Cobra and SuperCobra; and the Huey.
IT/OT professionals must get acquainted with the physical systems they protect from virtual threats, says Craig Carpenelli and Steve Henson, IT/OT Architects with Bell in Fort Worth, Texas.
GrayMatter and Bell collaborated on a solution to protect Bell’s manufacturing plant devices from malware that exploits legacy operating systems prevalent on custom-built, industrial equipment.
Upgrading the operating system of a single machine — one that cuts aircraft skins,
for example — would cost an estimated $500,000. Upgrading one machine wouldn’t protect its neighbors from malware. Bell has hundreds of devices spread over a half-dozen facilities in Texas.
“The $500,000 is just the direct cost. It doesn’t include the indirect cost of that machine being down for a matter of weeks,” Carpenelli said.
Viruses repeatedly infected Bell’s manufacturing plant devices. Reinfections occurred almost as quickly as they were removed.
Many of Bell’s large, custom-built manufacturing devices rely on legacy operating systems that are expensive or dif cult to patch with software updates. IT/OT professionals at Bell wanted an effective, low-impact solution.
“We want IT to be collaborative and not be intrusive,” Carpenelli said. “We want to be able to basically hook it up and everything stays the same.”
GrayMatter worked with Bell to deploy a micro-segmentation solution gradually.
“We tested it for one particular area to isolate that network segment and it worked well,” said Salman Ijazi, an Industrial Data Advisor with GrayMatter.
In the test run, Henson said they started with a group of machines infected with a virus. They removed the virus and placed the machines into a micro-segmented network. The solution prevented them, for the first time, from being infected again.
It was the key to get buy-in from company leaders.
“We needed a proof of concept that they cared about,” Henson said. “That’s what we were able to find.”